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MARY NORTH 
CHENOWETH 

SILVER CREEK 
WASHINGTON 



TALES OF MYSTERY 



<s. >. 

345 

SELECTED 

TALES OF MYSTERY 

BY 

EDGAR ALLAN POE 

ILLUSTRATED IN COLOUR 
BY 

BYAM SHAW 




LONDON 
SIDGWICK & JACKSON, LTD. 

3 ADAM STREET, ADELPHI 
1909 



CONTENTS V LIST OF 
ILLUSTRATIONS 

PAGE 

WILLIAM WILSON i 

"A MASQUERADE IN THE PALAZZO OF THE NEAPOLITAN DuKE Dl 
BROGLIO " Frontispiece 

THE GOLD BUG 29 

" THE BEETLE, WHICH HE HAD SUFFERED TO DESCEND, WAS NOW 
VISIBLE AT THE END OF THE STRING To face p. 46 

THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER 75 

" MADMAN ! I TELL YOU THAT SHE NOW STANDS WITHOUT THE 
DOOR !" To face p. 98 

THE ASSIGNATION 101 

"THOU HAST CONQUERED ONE HOUR AFTER SUNRISE WE SHALL 

MEET SO LET IT BE!" To face p. 104 

LIGEIA u 7 

"THE THING THAT WAS ENSHROUDED ADVANCED BOLDLY AND 
PALPABLY INTO THE MIDDLE OF THE APARTMENT" To face p. 134 

ELEONORA 137 

"A MAGIC PRISON-HOUSE OF GRANDEUR AND OF GLORY" 

To face p. 140 

THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH 145 

" DARKNESS AND DECAY AND THE RED DEATH HELD ILLIMITABLE 

DOMINION OVER ALL" To face p. 152 

THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO 153 

" I CEASED MY LABOURS AND SAT DOWN UPON THE BONES " 

To face p. 160 

METZENGERSTEIN 163 

"A CLOUD OF SMOKE SETTLED HEAVILY OVER THE BATTLEMENTS IN 
THE DISTINCT COLOSSAL FIGURE OF -/ HORSE " To face p. 174 

THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM 175 

" THEY SWARMED UPON ME IN EVER-ACCUMULATING HEAPS" 

To face p. 190 

V 



CONTENTS & ILLUSTRATIONS 

PAGE 

A DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM 195 

" I FASTENED MYSELF TO THE CASK, AND PRECIPITATED MYSELK 
WITH IT INTO THE SEA " To face p. 214 

MS. FOUND IN A BOTTLE 217 

" UPON THE VERY VERGE OF THE PRECIPITOUS DESCENT HOVERED 

A GIGANTIC SHIP" To face p. 222 

THE FACTS IN THE CASE OF M. VALDEMAR 231 

" YES; NO; IHAVEBEEN SLEEPING AND NOW NOW IAMDK.ID" 

To face p. 240 

THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE 245 

" THE SAILOR S FACE FLUSHED up ; HE STARTED TO HIS FEET AND 

GRASPED HIS CUDGEL " To face p. 284 

THE BLACK CAT 291 

" I HAD WALLED THE MONSTER UP WITHIN THE LIVING TOMB ! " 

To face p. 302 

THE SPECTACLES 305 

" I AMUSED MYSELF BY OBSERVING THE AUDIENCE " To face p. 306 



VI 



WILLIAM WILSON 

Erne call myself, for the present, William Wilson, 
ic fair page now lying before me need not be 
sullied with my real appellation. This has 
been already too much an object for the scorn 
for the horror for the detestation of my race. To 
the uttermost regions of the globe have not the indig 
nant winds bruited its unparalleled infamy ? Oh, out 
cast of all outcasts most abandoned ! to the earth art 
thou not for ever dead ? to its honours, to its flowers, 
to its golden aspirations ? and a cloud, dense, dismal, 
and limitless, does it not hang eternally between thy 
hopes and heaven ? 

I would not, if I could, here or to-day^ embody a 
record of my later years of unspeakable misery, and 
unpardonable crime. This epoch these later years 
took unto themselves a sudden elevation in turpitude, 
whose origin alone it is my present purpose to assign. 
Men usually grow base by degrees. From me, in an 
instant, all virtue dropped bodily as a mantle. From 
comparatively trivial wickedness I passed, with the 
stride of a giant, into more than the enormities of an 
Elah-Gabalus. What chance what one event brought 
this evil thing to pass, bear with me while I relate. 
Death approaches ; and the shadow which foreruns him 
has thrown a softening influence over my spirit. I 
long, in passing through the dim valley, for the sym 
pathy I had nearly said for the pity of my fellow- 
men. I would fain have them believe that I have been, 
in some measure, the slave of circumstances beyond 
human control. I would wish them to seek out for 
me, in the details I am about to give, some little oasis 
of fatality amid a wilderness of error. I would have 
them allow what they cannot refrain from allowing 

A I 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

that, although temptation may have ercwhile existed 
as great, man was never thus, at least, tempted before 
certainly never thus fell. And is it therefore that he has 
never thus suffered ? Have I not indeed been living 
in a dream? And am I not now dying a victim to the 
horror and the mystery of the wildest of all sublunary 
visions ? 

I am the descendant of a race whose imaginative 
and easily excitable temperament has at all times ren 
dered them remarkable ; and, in my earliest infancy, 
I gave evidence of having fully inherited the family 
character. As I advanced in years it was more strongly 
developed ; becoming, for many reasons, a cause of 
serious disquietude to my friends, and of positive injury 
to myself. I grew self-willed, addicted to the wildest 
caprices, and a prey to the most ungovernable passions. 
Weak-minded, and beset with constitutional infirmities 
akin to my own, my parents could do but little to check 
the evil propensities which distinguished me. Some 
feeble and ill-directed efforts resulted in complete failure 
on their part, and, of course, in total triumph on mine. 
Thenceforward my voice was a household law ; and at 
an age when few children have abandoned their leading- 
strings, I was left to the guidance of my own will, 
and became, in all but name, the master of my own 
actions. 

My earliest recollections of a school life are con 
nected with a large, rambling, Elizabethan house, in a 
misty-looking village of England, where were a vast 
number of gigantic gnarled trees, and where all the 
houses were excessively ancient. In truth, it was a 
dream-like and spirit-soothing place, that venerable old 
town. At this moment, in fancy, I feel the refreshing 
chilliness of its deeply-shadowed avenues, inhale the 
2 



WILLIAM WILSON 

fragrance of its thousand shrubberies, and thrill anew 
with undefinable delight, at the deep hollow note of 
the church-bell, breaking, each hour, with sullen and 
sudden roar, upon the stillness of the dusky atmosphere 
in which the fretted Gothic steeple lay imbedded and 
asleep. 

It gives me, perhaps, as much of pleasure as I can now 
in any manner experience, to dwell upon minute recol 
lections of the school and its concerns. Steeped in 
misery as I am misery, alas ! only too real I shall be 
pardoned for seeking relief, however slight and tem 
porary, in the weakness of a few rambling details. 
These, moreover, utterly trivial, and even ridiculous in 
themselves, assume, to my fancy, adventitious impor 
tance, as connected with a period and a locality when 
and where I recognise the first ambiguous monitions of 
the destiny which afterwards so fully overshadowed 
me. Let me then remember. 

The house, I have said, was old and irregular. The 
grounds were extensive, and a high and solid brick 
wall, topped with a bed of mortar and broken glass, 
encompassed the whole. This prison-like rampart 
formed the limit of our domain ; beyond it we saw 
but thrice a week once every Saturday afternoon, 
when, attended by two ushers, we were permitted to 
take brief walks in a body through some of the neigh 
bouring fields and twice during Sunday, when we 
were paraded in the same formal manner to the morn 
ing and evening service in the one church of the village. 
Of this church the principal of our school was pastor. 
With how deep a spirit of wonder and perplexity was 
I wont to regard him from our remote pew in the 
gallery, as, with step solemn and slow, he ascended the 
pulpit ! This reverend man, with countenance so 

3 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

demurely benign, with robes so glossy and so clerically 
flowing, with wig so minutely powdered, so rigid and 
so vast, could this be he who, of late, with sour 
visage, and in snuffy habiliments, administered, ferule 
in hand, the Draconian laws of the academy ? Oh, 
gigantic paradox, too utterly monstrous for solution ! 

At an angle of the ponderous wall frowned a more 
ponderous gate. It was riveted and studded with iron 
bolts, and surmounted with jagged iron spikes. What 
impressions of deep awe did it inspire ! It was never 
opened save for the three periodical egressions and 
ingressions already mentioned ; then, in every creak of 
its mighty hinges, we found a plenitude of mystery a 
world of matter for solemn remark, or for more solemn 
meditation. 

The extensive enclosure was irregular in form, having 
many capacious recesses. Of these, three or four of 
the largest constituted the play-ground. It was level, 
and covered with fine hard gravel. I well remember it 
had no trees, nor benches, nor anything similar within 
it. Of course it was in the rear of the house. In front 
lay a small parterre, planted with box and other shrubs ; 
but through this sacred division we passed only upon 
rare occasions indeed such as a first advent to school 
or final departure thence, or perhaps, when a parent or 
friend having called for us, we joyfully took our way 
home for the Christmas or Midsummer holidays. 

But the house ! how quaint an old building was 
this ! to me how veritably a palace of enchantment ! 
There was really no end to its windings to its incom 
prehensible subdivisions. It was difficult, at any given 
time, to say with certainty upon which of its two stories 
one happened to be. From each room to every other 
there were sure to be found three or four steps either 

4 



WILLIAM WILSON 

in ascent or descent. Then the lateral branches were 
innumerable inconceivable and so returning in upon 
themselves, that our most exact ideas in regard to the 
whole mansion were not very far different from those 
with which we pondered upon infinity. During the 
five years of my residence here, I was never able to 
ascertain with precision in what remote locality lay 
the little sleeping apartment assigned to myself and 
some eighteen or twenty other scholars. 

The schoolroom was the largest in the house I 
could not help thinking, in the world. It was very 
long, narrow, and dismally low, with pointed Gothic 
windows and a ceiling of oak. In a remote and terror- 
inspiring angle was a square enclosure of eight or ten 
feet, comprising the sanctum^ " during hours," of our 
principal, the Reverend Dr. Bransby. It was a solid 
structure, with massy door, sooner than open which in 
the absence of the " Dominie," we would all have 
willingly perished by the peine forte et dure. In other 
angles were two other similar boxes, far less reverenced, 
indeed, but still greatly matters of awe. One of these 
was the pulpit of the " classical " usher, one of the 
" English and mathematical." Interspersed about the 
room, crossing and recrossing in endless irregularity, 
were innumerable benches and desks, black, ancient, 
and timeworn, piled desperately with much-bethumbed 
books, and so beseamed with initial letters, names at 
full length, grotesque figures, and other multiplied 
efforts of the knife, as to have entirely lost what little 
of original form might have been their portion in days 
long departed. A huge bucket with water stood at 
one extremity of the room, and a clock of stupendous 
dimensions at the other. 

Encompassed by the massy walls of this venerable 

5 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

academy, I passed, yet not in tedium or disgust, the 
years of the third lustrum of my life. The teeming 
brain of childhood requires no external world of inci 
dent to occupy or amuse it ; and the apparently dismal 
monotony of a school was replete with more intense 
excitement than my riper youth has derived from 
luxury, or my full manhood from crime. Yet I must 
believe that my first mental development had in it 
much of the uncommon even much of the outre. 
Upon mankind at large the events of very early exist 
ence rarely leave in mature age any definite impression. 
All is grey shadow a weak and irregular remembrance 
an indistinct regathering of feeble pleasures and 
phantasmagoric pains. With me this is not so. In 
childhood I must have felt with the energy of a man 
what I now find stamped upon memory in lines as 
vivid, as deep, and as durable as the exergues of the 
Carthaginian medals. 

Yet in fact in the fact of the world s view how 
little was there to remember ! The morning s awaken 
ing, the nightly summons to bed ; the connings, the 
recitations ; the periodical half-holidays, and perambu 
lations ; the play-ground, with its broils, its pastimes, 
its intrigues ; these, by a mental sorcery long forgotten, 
were made to involve a wilderness of sensation, a world 
of rich incident, an universe of varied emotion, of ex 
citement the most passionate and spirit-stirring. " Oh, 
le bon temps, que ce stecle defer / " 

In truth, the ardour, the enthusiasm, and the im- 
periousness of my disposition, soon rendered me a 
marked character among my schoolmates, and by slow 
but natural gradations, gave me an ascendency over all 
not greatly older than myself ; over all with a single 
exception. This exception was found in the person of 
6 



WILLIAM WILSON 

a scholar, who, although no relation, bore the same 
Christian and surname as myself; a circumstance, in 
fact, little remarkable ; for, notwithstanding a noble 
descent, mine was one of those everyday appellations 
which seem, by prescriptive right, to have been, time 
out of mind, the common property of the mob. In this 
narrative I have therefore designated myself as William 
Wilson, a fictitious title not very dissimilar to the real. 
My namesake alone, of those who in school phraseology 
constituted " our set," presumed to compete with me 
in the studies of the class in the sports and broils of 
the play-ground to refuse implicit belief in my asser 
tions, and submission to my will indeed, to interfere 
with my arbitrary dictation in any respect whatsoever. 
If there is on earth a supreme and unqualified despotism, 
it is the despotism of a master mind in boyhood over 
the less energetic spirits of its companions. 

Wilson s rebellion was to me a source of the greatest 
embarrassment ; the more so as, in spite of the bravado 
with which in public I made a point of treating him 
and his pretensions, I secretly felt that I feared him, and 
could not help thinking the equality which he main 
tained so easily with myself, a proof of his true superi 
ority ; since not to be overcome cost me a perpetual 
struggle. Yet this superiority even this equality 
was in truth acknowledged by no one but myself; our 
associates, by some unaccountable blindness, seemed not 
even to suspect it. Indeed, his competition, his resist 
ance, and especially his impertinent and dogged inter 
ference with my purposes, were not more pointed than 
private. He appeared to be destitute alike of the 
ambition which urged, and of the passionate energy of 
mind which enabled me to excel. In his rivalry he 
might have been supposed actuated solely by a whimsi- 

7 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

cal desire to thwart, astonish, or mortify myself; 
although there were times when I could not help 
observing, with a feeling made up of wonder, abase 
ment, and pique, that he mingled with his injuries, his 
insults, or his contradictions, a certain most inappro 
priate, and assuredly most unwelcome affectionateness of 
manner. I could only conceive this singular behaviour 
to arise from a consummate self-conceit assuming the 
vulgar air of patronage and protection. 

Perhaps it was this latter trait in Wilson s conduct, 
conjoined with our identity of name, and the mere 
accident of our having entered the school upon the 
same day, which set afloat the notion that we were 
brothers, among the senior classes in the academy. 
These do not usually inquire with much strictness into 
the affairs of their juniors. I have before said, or should 
have said, that Wilson was not, in the most remote 
degree, connected with my family. But assuredly if we 
had been brothers we must have been twins ; for, after 
leaving Dr. Bransby s, I casually learned that my name 
sake was born on the nineteenth of January, 1813 and 
this is a somewhat remarkable coincidence ; for the day 
is precisely that of my own nativity. 

It may seem strange that in spite of the continual 
anxiety occasioned me by the rivalry of Wilson, and his 
intolerable spirit of contradiction, I could not bring 
myself to hate him altogether. We had, to be sure, 
nearly every day a quarrel in which, yielding me 
publicly the palm of victory, he, in some manner, con 
trived to make me feel that it was he who had deserved 
it ; yet a sense of pride on my part, and a veritable 
dignity on his own, kept us always upon what are 
called " speaking terms," while there were many points 
of strong congeniality in our tempers, operating to 
8 



WILLIAM WILSON 

awake in me a sentiment which our position alone, 
perhaps, prevented from ripening into friendship. It is 
difficult, indeed, to define, or even to describe, my real 
feelings towards him. They formed a motley and hetero 
geneous admixture ; some petulant animosity, which 
was not yet hatred, some esteem, more respect, much 
fear, with a world of uneasy curiosity. To the moralist 
it will be unnecessary to say, in addition, that Wilson 
and myself were the most inseparable of companions. 

It was no doubt the anomalous state of affairs 
existing between us, which turned all my attacks upon 
him (and they were many, either open or covert) into the 
channel of banter or practical joke (giving pain while 
assuming the aspect of mere fun) rather than into a more 
serious and determined hostility. But my endeavours 
on this head were by no means uniformly successful, 
even when my plans were the most wittily concocted ; 
for my namesake had much about him, in character, of 
that unassuming and quiet austerity which, while enjoy 
ing the poignancy of its own jokes, has no heel of Achilles 
in itself, and absolutely refuses to be laughed at. I 
could find, indeed, but one vulnerable point, and that, 
lying in a personal peculiarity, arising, perhaps, from 
constitutional disease, would have been spared by any 
antagonist less at his wit s end than myself my rival 
had a weakness in the faucal or guttural organs, which 
precluded him from raising his voice at any time above 
a very low whisper. Of this defect I did not fail to take 
what poor advantage lay in my power. 

Wilson s retaliations in kind were many ; and there 
was one form of his practical wit that disturbed me 
beyond measure. How his sagacity first discovered at 
all that so petty a thing would vex me, is a question I 
never could solve ; but, having discovered, he habitually 

9 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

practised the annoyance. I had always felt aversion to 
my uncourtly patronymic, and its very common, if not 
plebeian prasnomen. The words were venom in my 
ears ; and when, upon the day of my arrival, a second 
William Wilson came also to the academy, I felt angry 
with him for bearing the name, and doubly disgusted 
with the name because a stranger bore it, who would 
be the cause of its two-fold repetition, who would be 
constantly in my presence, and whose concerns, in the 
ordinary routine of the school business, must inevitably, 
on account of the detestable coincidence, be often 
confounded with my own. 

The feeling of vexation thus engendered grew 
stronger with every circumstance tending to show 
resemblance, moral or physical, between my rival and 
myself. I had not then discovered the remarkable fact 
that we were of the same age ; but I saw that we were 
of the same height, and I perceived that we were even 
singularly alike in general contour of person and out 
line of feature. I was galled, too, by the rumour 
touching a relationship, which had grown current in 
the upper forms. In a word, nothing could more 
seriously disturb me (although I scrupulously concealed 
such disturbance), than any allusion to a similarity of 
mind, person, or condition existing between us. But, 
in truth, I had no reason to believe that (with the 
exception of the matter of relationship, and in the case 
of Wilson himself) this similarity had ever been made a 
subject of comment, or even observed at all by our 
schoolfellows. That he observed it in all its bearings, 
and as fixedly as I, was apparent ; but that he could 
discover in such circumstances so fruitful a field of 
annoyance, can only be attributed, as I said before, to 
his more than ordinary penetration. 
10 



WILLIAM WILSON 

His cue, which was to perfect an imitation of myself, 
lay both in words and in actions ; and most admirably 
did he play his part. My dress it was an easy matter 
to copy ; my gait and general manner were, without 
difficulty, appropriated ; in spite of his constitutional 
defect, even my voice did not escape him. My louder 
tones were, of course, unattempted, but then the key, 
it was identical ; and his singular whisper , it grew the 
very echo of my own. 

How greatly this most exquisite portraiture harassed 
me (for it could not justly be termed a caricature), I 
will not now venture to describe. I had but one con 
solation in the fact that the imitation, apparently, was 
noticed by myself alone, and that I had to endure only 
the knowing and strangely sarcastic smiles of my name 
sake himself. Satisfied with having produced in my 
bosom the intended effect, he seemed to chuckle in 
secret over the sting he had inflicted, and was charac 
teristically disregardful of the public applause which the 
success of his witty endeavours might have so easily 
elicited. That the school, indeed, did not feel his 
design, perceive its accomplishment, and participate in 
his sneer, was, for many anxious months, a riddle I 
could not resolve. Perhaps the gradation of his copy 
rendered it not so readily perceptible ; or, more pos 
sibly, I owed my security to the masterly air of the 
copyist, who, disdaining the letter (which in a painting 
is all the obtuse can see), gave but the full spirit of his 
original for my individual contemplation and chagrin. 

I have already more than once spoken of the dis 
gusting air of patronage which he assumed toward me, 
and of his frequent officious interference with my will. 
This interference often took the ungracious character 
of advice ; advice not openly given, but hinted or 

ii 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

insinuated. I received it with a repugnance which 
gained strength as I grew in years. Yet, at this 
distant day, let me do him the simple justice to 
acknowledge that I can recall no occasion when the 
suggestions of my rival were on the side of those errors 
or follies so usual to his immature age and seeming 
inexperience ; that his moral sense, at least, if not his 
general talents and worldly wisdom, was far keener 
than my own ; and that I might, to-day, have been a 
better, and thus a happier man, had I less frequently 
rejected the counsels embodied in those meaning 
whispers which I then but too cordially hated and too 
bitterly despised. 

As it was, I at length grew restive in the extreme 
under his distasteful supervision, and daily resented 
more and more openly what I considered his intolerable 
arrogance. I have said that, in the first years of our 
connection as schoolmates, my feelings in regard to 
him might have been easily ripened into friendship : 
but, in the latter months of my residence at the 
academy, although the intrusion of his ordinary manner 
had, beyond doubt, in some measure, abated, my senti 
ments, in nearly similar proportion, partook very much 
of positive hatred. Upon one occasion he saw this, I 
think, and afterwards avoided, or made a show of 
avoiding me. 

It was about the same period, if I remember aright, 
that, in an altercation of violence with him, in which 
he was more than usually thrown off his guard, and 
spoke and acted with an openness of demeanour rather 
foreign to his nature, I discovered, or fancied I dis 
covered, in his accent, his air, and general appearance, 
a something which first startled, and then deeply inte 
rested me, by bringing to mind dim visions of my earliest 
12 



WILLIAM WILSON 

infancy wild, confused, and thronging memories of a 
time when memory herself was yet unborn. I cannot 
better describe the sensation which oppressed me than 
by saying that I could with difficulty shake off the 
belief of my having been acquainted with the being 
who stood before me, at some epoch very long ago 
some point of the past even infinitely remote. The 
delusion, however, faded rapidly as it came ; and I 
mention it at all but to define the day of the last con 
versation I there held with my singular namesake. 

The huge old house, with its countless subdivisions, 
had several large chambers communicating with each 
other, where slept the greater number of the students. 
There were, however (as must necessarily happen in a 
building so awkwardly planned), many little nooks or 
recesses, the odds and ends of the structure ; and these 
the economic ingenuity of Dr. Bransby had also fitted 
up as dormitories ; although, being the merest closets, 
they were capable of accommodating but a single 
individual. One of these small apartments was occupied 
by Wilson. 

One night, about the close of my fifth year at the 
school, and immediately after the altercation just men 
tioned, finding every one wrapped in sleep, I rose from 
bed, and, lamp in hand, stole through a wilderness of 
narrow passages from my own bedroom to that of my 
rival. I had long been plotting one of those ill- 
natured pieces of practical wit at his expense in which 
I had hitherto been so uniformly unsuccessful. It 
was my intention, now, to put my scheme in opera 
tion, and I resolved to make him feel the whole extent 
of the malice with which I was imbued. Having 
reached his closet, I noiselessly entered, leaving the 
lamp, with a shade over it, on the outside. I advanced 

3 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

a step, and listened to the sound of his tranquil breath 
ing. Assured of his being asleep, I returned, took the 
light, and with it again approached the bed. Close 
curtains were around it, which, in the prosecution of 
my plan, I slowly and quietly withdrew, when the 
bright rays fell vividly upon the sleeper, and my eyes, 
at the same moment, upon his countenance. I looked ; 
and a numbness, an iciness of feeling instantly per 
vaded my frame. My breast heaved, my knees 
tottered, my whole spirit became possessed with an 
objectless yet intolerable horror. Gasping for breath, 
I lowered the lamp in still nearer proximity to the 
face. Were these these the lineaments of William 
Wilson ? I saw, indeed, that they were his, but I 
shook as if with a fit of the ague in fancying they were 
not. What was there about them to confound me in 
this manner ? I gazed ; while my brain reeled with 
a multitude of incoherent thoughts. Not thus he 
appeared assuredly not thus in the vivacity of his 
waking hours. The same name ! the same contour of 
person ! the same day of arrival at the academy 1 And 
then his dogged and meaningless imitation of my gait, 
my voice, my habits, and my manner ! Was it, in 
truth, within the bounds of human possibility, that 
what I now saw was the result merely of the habitual 
practice of this sarcastic imitation 1 Awestricken and 
with a creeping shudder, I extinguished the lamp, 
passed silently from the chamber, and left at once the 
halls of that old academy, never to enter them again. 

After a lapse of some months spent at home in 
mere idleness, I found myself a student at Eton. The 
brief interval had been sufficient to enfeeble my remem 
brance of the events at Dr. Bransby s, or at least to 
effect a material change in the nature of the feelings 

4 



WILLIAM WILSON 

with which I remembered them. The truth the 
tragedy of the drama was no more. I could now 
find room to doubt the evidence of my senses ; and 
seldom called up the subject at all but with wonder at 
the extent of human credulity, and a smile at the vivid 
force of the imagination which I hereditarily possessed. 
Neither was this species of scepticism likely to be 
diminished by the character of the life I led at Eton. 
The vortex of thoughtless folly into which I there so 
immediately and so recklessly plunged, washed away all 
but the froth of my past hours, engulfed at once every 
solid or serious impression, and left to memory only the 
veriest levities of a former existence. 

I do not wish, however, to trace the course of my 
miserable profligacy here a profligacy which set at 
defiance the laws, while it eluded the vigilance of the 
institution. Three years of folly, passed without profit, 
had but given me rooted habits of vice, and added, in a 
somewhat unusual degree, to my bodily stature, when, 
after a week of soulless dissipation, I invited a small 
party of the most dissolute students to a secret carousal 
in my chambers. We met at a late hour of the night ; 
for our debaucheries were to be faithfully protracted 
until morning. The wine flowed freely, and there were 
not wanting other and perhaps more dangerous seduc 
tions ; so that the grey dawn had already faintly 
appeared in the east, while our delirious extravagance was 
at its height. Madly flushed with cards and intoxica 
tion, I was in the act of insisting upon a toast of more 
than wonted profanity, when my attention was suddenly 
diverted by the violent, although partial unclosing of the 
door of the apartment, and by the eager voice of a servant 
from without. He said that some person, apparently in 
great haste, demanded to speak with me in the hall. 

5 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

Wildly excited with wine, the unexpected interrup 
tion rather delighted than surprised me. I staggered 
forward at once, and a few steps brought me to the 
vestibule of the building. In this low and small room 
there hung no lamp ; and now no light at all was 
admitted, save that of the exceedingly feeble dawn 
which made its way through the semi-circular window. 
As I put my foot over the threshold, I became aware 
of the figure of a youth about my own height, and 
habited in a white kerseymere morning frock, cut in 
the novel fashion of the one I myself wore at the 
moment. This the faint light enabled me to perceive ; 
but the features of his face I could not distinguish. 
Upon my entering he strode hurriedly up to me, and, 
seizing me by the arm with a gesture of petulant im 
patience, whispered the words " William Wilson ! " in 
my ear. 

I grew perfectly sober in an instant. 

There was that in the manner of the stranger, and 
in the tremulous shake of his uplifted finger, as he held 
it between my eyes and the light, which filled me with 
unqualified amazement ; but it was not this which had 
so violently moved me. It was the pregnancy of solemn 
admonition in the singular, low, hissing utterance ; and, 
above all, it was the character, the tone, the key^ of those 
few, simple, and familiar, yet whispered syllables, which 
came with a thousand thronging memories of by-gone 
days, and struck upon my soul with the shock of a 
galvanic battery. Ere I could recover the use of my 
senses he was gone. 

Although this event failed not of a vivid effect upon 
my disordered imagination, yet was it evanescent as 
vivid. For some weeks, indeed, I busied myself in 
earnest inquiry, or was wrapped in a cloud of morbid 
16 



WILLIAM WILSON 

speculation. I did not pretend to disguise from my per 
ception the identity of the singular individual who thus 
perseveringly interfered with my affairs, and harassed me 
with his insinuated counsel. But who and what was this 
Wilson ? and whence came he ? and what were his 
purposes ? Upon neither of these points could I be 
satisfied : merely ascertaining, in regard to him, that a 
sudden accident in his family had caused his removal from 
Dr. Bransby s academy on the afternoon of the day in 
which I myself had eloped. But in a brief period I ceased 
to think upon the subject ; my attention being all 
absorbed in a contemplated departure for Oxford. 
Thither I soon went ; the uncalculating vanity of my 
parents furnishing me with an outfit and annual estab 
lishment, which would enable me to indulge at will in 
the luxury already so dear to my heart, to vie in pro- 
fuseness of expenditure with the haughtiest heirs of the 
wealthiest earldoms in Great Britain. 

Excited by such appliances to vice, my constitutional 
temperament broke forth with redoubled ardour, and I 
spurned even the common restraints of decency in the 
mad infatuation of my revels. But it were absurd to 
pause in the detail of my extravagance. Let it suffice, 
that among spendthrifts I out-Heroded Herod, and that, 
giving name to a multitude of novel follies, I added no 
brief appendix to the long catalogue of vices then usual 
in the most dissolute university of Europe. 

It could hardly be credited, however, that I had, even 
here, so utterly fallen from the gentlemanly estate, as to 
seek acquaintance with the vilest arts of the gambler by 
profession, and, having become an adept in his despicable 
science, to practise it habitually as a means of increasing 
my already enormous income at the expense of the 
weak-minded among my fellow-collegians. Such, never- 

B 17 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

theless, was the fact. And the very enormity of this 
offence against all manly and honourable sentiment 
proved, beyond doubt, the main if not the sole reason 
of the impunity with which it was committed. Who, 
indeed, among my most abandoned associates, would 
not rather have disputed the clearest evidence of his 
senses, than have suspected of such courses, the gay, the 
frank, the generous William Wilson the noblest and 
most liberal commoner at Oxford him whose follies 
(said his parasites) were but the follies of youth and un- 
bridledfancy whose errors but inimitablewhim whose 
darkest vice but a careless and dashing extravagance ? 

I had been now two years successfully busied in this 
way, when there came to the university a young parvenu 
nobleman, Glendinning rich, said report, as Herodes 
Atticus his riches, too, as easily acquired. I soon 
found him of weak intellect, and, of course, marked him 
as a fitting subject for my skill. I frequently engaged him 
in play, and contrived, with the gambler s usual art, to 
let him win considerable sums, the more effectually to 
entangle him in my snares. At length, my schemes 
being ripe, I met him (with the full intention that this 
meeting should be final and decisive) at the chambers of 
a fellow-commoner (Mr. Preston), equally intimate with 
both, but who, to do him justice, entertained not even 
a remote suspicion of my design. To give to this a better 
colouring, I had contrived to have assembled a party of 
some eight or ten, and was solicitously careful that the 
introduction of cards should appear accidental, and 
originate in the proposal of my contemplated dupe 
himself. To be brief upon a vile topic, none of the low 
finesse was omitted, so customary upon similar occasions, 
that it is a just matter for wonder how any are still 
found so besotted as to fall its victim. 
18 



WILLIAM WILSON 

We had protracted our sitting far into the night, 
and I had at length effected the manoeuvre of getting 
Glendinning as my sole antagonist. The game, too, 
was my favourite ecarte. The rest of the company, 
interested in the extent of our play, had abandoned 
their own cards, and were standing around us as specta 
tors. The parvenu, who had been induced by my 
artifices in the early part of the evening, to drink 
deeply, now shuffled, dealt, or played, with a wild 
nervousness of manner for which his intoxication, I 
thought, might partially, but could not altogether 
account. In a very short period he had become my 
debtor to a large amount, when, having taken a long 
draught of port, he did precisely what I had been 
coolly anticipating he proposed to double our already 
extravagant stakes. With a well-feigned show of re 
luctance, and not until after my repeated refusal had 
seduced him into some angry words which gave a 
colour of pique to my compliance, did I finally comply. 
The result, of course, did but prove how entirely the 
prey was in my toils ; in less than an hour he had 
quadrupled his debt. For some time his countenance 
had been losing the florid tinge lent it by the wine ; but 
now, to my astonishment, I perceived that it had grown 
to a pallor truly fearful. I say to my astonishment. 
Glendinning had been represented to my eager in 
quiries as immeasurably wealthy ; and the sums which 
he had as yet lost, although in themselves vast, could 
not, I supposed, very seriously annoy, much less so 
violently affect him. That he was overcome by the 
wine just swallowed, was the idea which most readily 
presented itself; and, rather with a view to the pre 
servation of my own character in the eyes of my 
associates, than from any less interested motive, I was 

19 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

about to insist, peremptorily, upon a discontinuance of 
the play, when some expressions at my elbow from 
among the company, and an ejaculation evincing utter 
despair on the part of Glendinning, gave me to under 
stand that I had effected his total ruin under circum 
stances which, rendering him an object for the pity of 
all, should have protected him from the ill offices even 
of a fiend. 

What now might have been my conduct it is 
difficult to say. The pitiable condition of my dupe 
had thrown an air of embarrassed gloom over all ; 
and, for some moments, a profound silence was main 
tained, during which I could not help feeling my 
cheeks tingle with the many burning glances of scorn 
or reproach cast upon me by the less abandoned of the 
party. I will even own that an intolerable weight of 
anxiety was for a brief instant lifted from my bosom 
by the sudden and extraordinary interruption which 
ensued. The wide, heavy folding-doors of the apart 
ment were all at once thrown open to their full extent, 
with a vigorous and rushing impetuosity that extin 
guished, as if by magic, every candle in the room. 
Their light, in dying, enabled us just to perceive that 
a stranger had entered, about my own height, and 
closely muffled in a cloak. The darkness, however, was 
now total ; and we could only feel that he was standing 
iri our midst. Before any one of us could recover from 
the extreme astonishment into which this rudeness had 
thrown all, we heard the voice of the intruder. 

" Gentlemen," he said in a low, distinct and never- 
to-be-forgotten whisper which thrilled to the very 
marrow of my bones, " Gentlemen, I make no apology 
for this behaviour, because in thus behaving, I am but 
fulfilling a duty. You are, beyond doubt, uninformed 
20 



WILLIAM WILSON 

of the true character of the person who has to-night 
won at ecarte a large sum of money from Lord Glen- 
dinning. I will therefore put you upon an expeditious 
and decisive plan of obtaining this very necessary in 
formation. Please to examine, at your leisure, the 
inner linings of the cuff of his left sleeve, arid the 
several little packages which may be found in the 
somewhat capacious pockets of his embroidered morn 
ing wrapper." 

While he spoke, so profound was the stillness that 
one might have heard a pin drop upon the floor. In 
ceasing, he departed at once, and as abruptly as he had 
entered. Can I shall I describe my sensations ? must 
I say that I felt all the horrors of the damned ? Most 
assuredly I had little time given for reflection. Many 
hands roughly seized me upon the spot, and lights were 
immediately re-procured. A search ensued. In the 
lining of my sleeve were found all the court cards 
essential in tcarte, and, in the pockets of my wrapper, a 
number of packs, facsimiles of those used at our sittings, 
with the single exception that mine were of the species 
called, technically, arrondees ; the honours being slightly 
convex at the ends, the lower cards slightly convex at 
the sides. In this disposition, the dupe who cuts, as 
customary, at the length of the pack, will invariably 
find that he cuts his antagonist an honour; while the 
gambler, cutting at the breadth, will, as certainly, cut 
nothing for his victim which may count in the records 
of the game. 

Any burst of indignation upon this discovery would 
have affected me less than the silent contempt, or the 
sarcastic composure, with which it was received. 

" Mr. Wilson," said our host, stooping to remove 
from beneath his feet an exceedingly luxurious cloak of 

21 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

rare furs, " Mr. Wilson, this is your property." (The 
weather was cold ; and, upon quitting my own room, 
I had thrown a cloak over my dressing-wrapper, putting 
it off upon reaching the scene of play.) " I presume it 
is supererogatory to seek here " (eyeing the folds of the 
garment with a bitter smile) " for any farther evidence 
of your skill. Indeed, we have had enough. You 
will see the necessity, I hope, of quitting Oxford at 
all events, of quitting instantly my chambers." 

Abased, humbled to the dust as I then was, it is 
probable that I should have resented this galling language 
by immediate personal violence, had not my whole 
attention been at the moment arrested by a fact of the 
most startling character. The cloak which I had worn 
was of a rare description of fur ; how rare, how ex 
travagantly costly, I shall not venture to say. Its 
fashion, too, was of my own fantastic invention ; for I 
was fastidious to an absurd degree of coxcombry, in 
matters of this frivolous nature. When, therefore, Mr. 
Preston reached me that which he had picked up 
upon the floor, and near the folding doors of the apart 
ment, it was with an astonishment nearly bordering 
upon terror, that I perceived my own already hanging 
on my arm (where I had no doubt unwittingly placed 
it), and that the one presented me was but its exact 
counterpart in every, in even the minutest possible 
particular. The singular being who had so disastrously 
exposed me, had been muffled, I remembered, in a 
cloak ; and none had been worn at all by any of the 
members of our party with the exception of myself. 
Retaining some presence of mind, I took the one offered 
me by Preston ; placed it, unnoticed, over my own ; 
left the apartment with a resolute scowl of defiance ; 
and, next morning ere dawn of day, commenced a 

22 



WILLIAM WILSON 

hurried journey from Oxford to the continent, in a 
perfect agony of horror and of shame. 

I fled in vain. My evil destiny pursued me as if in 
exultation, and proved, indeed, that the exercise of its 
mysterious dominion had as yet only begun. Scarcely 
had I set foot in Paris ere I had fresh evidence of the 
detestable interest taken by this Wilson in my concerns. 
Years flew, while I experienced no relief. Villain ! at 
Rome, with how untimely, yet with how spectral an 
officiousness, stepped he in between me and my am 
bition ! At Vienna, too at Berlin and at Moscow ! 
Where, in truth, had I not bitter cause to curse him 
within my heart ? From his inscrutable tyranny did I 
at length flee, panic-stricken, as from a pestilence ; and 
to the very ends of the earth Ifled in vain. 

And again, and again, in secret communion with my 
own spirit, would I demand the questions " Who is he ? 
whence came he ? and what are his objects ? " 
But no answer was there found. And then I scrutinised, 
with a minute scrutiny, the forms, and the methods, 
and the leading traits of his impertinent supervision. 
But even here there was very little upon which to 
base a conjecture. It was noticeable, indeed, that, in 
no one of the multiplied instances in which he had of 
late crossed my path, had he so crossed it except to 
frustrate those schemes, or to disturb those actions, 
which, if fully carried out, might have resulted in 
bitter mischief. Poor justification this, in truth, for an 
authority so imperiously assumed ! Poor indemnity for 
natural rights of self-agency so pertinaciously, so in 
sultingly denied ! 

I had also been forced to notice that my tormentor, 
for a very long period of time (while scrupulously and 
with miraculous dexterity maintaining his whim of an 

2 3 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

identity of apparel with myself) had so contrived it, in 
the execution of his varied interference with my will, 
that I saw not, at any moment, the features of his face. 
Be Wilson what he might, Mw, at least, was but the 
veriest of affectation, or of folly. Could he, for an 
instant, have supposed that, in my admonisher at Eton 
in the destroyer of my honour at Oxford in him 
who thwarted my ambition at Rome, my revenge at 
Paris, my passionate love at Naples, or what he falsely 
termed my avarice in Egypt that in this, my arch 
enemy and evil genius, I could fail to recognise the 
William Wilson of my school-boy days the namesake, 
the companion, the rival the hated and dreaded rival 
at Dr. Bransby s ? Impossible ! But let me hasten to 
the last eventful scene of the drama. 

Thus far I had succumbed supinely to this imperious 
domination. The sentiments of deep awe with which I 
habitually regarded the elevated character, the majestic 
wisdom, the apparent omnipresence and omnipotence of 
Wilson, added to a feeling of even terror, with which 
certain other traits in his nature and assumptions inspired 
me, had operated, hitherto, to impress me with an idea 
of my own utter weakness and helplessness, and to 
suggest an implicit, although bitterly reluctant submis 
sion to his arbitrary will. But of late days I had 
given myself up entirely to wine ; and its maddening 
influence upon my hereditary temper rendered me more 
and more impatient of control. I began to murmur 
to hesitate to resist. And was it only fancy which 
induced me to believe that, with the increase of my 
own firmness, that of my tormentor underwent a 
proportional diminution ? Be this as it may, I now 
began to feel the inspiration of a burning hope, and 
at length nurtured in my secret thoughts a stern and 

24 



WILLIAM WILSON 

desperate resolution that I would submit no longer to 
be enslaved. 

It was at Rome, during the Carnival of 18 , that I 
attended a masquerade in the palazzo of the Neapolitan 
Duke Di Broglio. I had indulged more freely than 
usual in the excesses of the wine-table ; and now the 
suffocating atmosphere of the crowded rooms irritated 
me beyond endurance. The difficulty, too, of forcing 
my way through the mazes of the company contributed 
not a little to the ruffling of my temper ; for I was 
anxiously seeking (let me not say with what unworthy 
motive) the young, the gay, the beautiful wife of the 
aged and doting Di Broglio. With a too unscrupulous 
confidence she had previously communicated to me the 
secret of the costume in which she would be habited, 
and now, having caught a glimpse of her person, I was 
hurrying to make my way into her presence. At this 
moment I felt a light hand placed upon my shoulder, 
and that ever-remembered, low, damnable whisper within 
my ear. 

In an absolute frenzy of wrath, I turned at once 
upon him who had thus interrupted me, and seized him 
violently by the collar. He was attired, as I had 
expected, in a costume altogether similar to my own ; 
wearing a Spanish cloak of blue velvet, begirt about 
the waist with a crimson belt sustaining a rapier. A 
mask of black silk entirely covered his face. 
,/ " Scoundrel ! " I said, in a voice husky with rage, 
while every syllable I uttered seemed as new fuel to my 
fury, "scoundrel! impostor! accursed villain! you shall 
not you shall not dog me unto death ! Follow me, or 
I stab you where you stand ! " and I broke my way 
from the ballroom into a small ante-chamber adjoining 
dragging him unresistingly with me as I went. 

25 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

Upon entering, I thrust him furiously from me. 
He staggered against the wall, while I closed the door 
with an oath, and commanded him to draw. He 
hesitated but for an instant ; then, with a slight sigh, 
drew in silence, and put himself upon his defence. 

The contest was brief indeed. I was frantic with 
every species of wild excitement, and felt within my 
single arm the energy and power of a multitude. In a 
few seconds I forced him by sheer strength against the 
wainscotting, and thus getting him at mercy, plunged 
my sword with brute ferocity, repeatedly through and 
through his bosom. 

At that instant some person tried the latch of the 
door. I hastened to prevent an intrusion, and then 
immediately returned to my dying antagonist. But 
what human language can adequately portray that 
astonishment, that horror which possessed me at the 
spectacle then presented to view ? The brief moment 
in which I averted my eyes had been sufficient to 
produce, apparently, a material change in the arrange 
ments at the upper or farther end of the room. A 
large mirror so at first it seemed to me in my con 
fusion now stood where none had been perceptible 
before ; and, as I stepped up to it in an extremity of 
terror, mine own image, but with features all pale and 
dabbled in blood, advanced to meet me with a feeble 
and tottering gait. 

Thus it appeared, I say, but was not. It was my 
antagonist it was Wilson, who then stood before me 
in the agonies of his dissolution. His mask and cloak 
lay, where he had thrown them, upon the floor. Not 
a thread in all his raiment not a line in all the marked 
and singular lineaments of his face which was not, even 
in the most absolute identity, mine own ! 
26 



WILLIAM WILSON 

It was Wilson ; but he spoke no longer in a whisper, 
and I could have fancied that I myself was speaking 
while he said : 

"Tou have conquered, and I yield. Yet, henceforward 
art thou also dead dead to the World, to Heaven, and to 
hope / In me didst thou exist and, in my death, see by 
this image, which is thine own, how utterly thou hast mur 
dered thyself" 



27 



THE GOLD-BUG 

MANY years ago, I contracted an intimacy 
with a Mr. William Legrand. He was of 
an ancient Huguenot family, and had once 
been wealthy ; but a series of misfortunes 
had reduced him to want. To avoid the mortification 
consequent upon his disasters, he left New Orleans, the 
city of his forefathers, and took up his residence at 
Sullivan s Island, near Charleston, South Carolina. 

This island is a very singular one. It consists of 
little else than the sea sand, and is about three miles 
long. Its breadth at no point exceeds a quarter of a mile. 
It is separated from the mainland by a scarcely percep 
tible creek, oozing its way through a wilderness of reeds 
and slime, a favourite resort of the marsh-hen. The 
vegetation, as might be supposed, is scant, or at least 
dwarfish. No trees of any magnitude are to be seen. 
Near the western extremity, where Fort Moultrie 
stands, and where are some miserable frame buildings, 
tenanted, during summer, by the fugitives from Charles 
ton dust and fever, may be found, indeed, the bristly 
palmetto ; but the whole island, with the exception of 
this western point, and a line of hard, white beach on 
the sea coast, is covered with a dense undergrowth of 
the sweet myrtle so much prized by the horticulturist 
of England. The shrub here often attains the height 
of fifteen or twenty feet, and forms an almost impene 
trable coppice, burthening the air with its fragrance. 

In the inmost recesses of this coppice, not far from 
the eastern or more remote end of the island, Legrand 
had built himself a small hut, which he occupied when 
I first, by mere accident, made his acquaintance. This 
soon ripened into friendship for there was much in 
the recluse to excite interest and esteem. I found him 

29 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

well educated, with unusual powers of mind, but infected 
with misanthropy, and subject to perverse moods of 
alternate enthusiasm and melancholy. He had with 
him many books, but rarely employed them. His chief 
amusements were gunning and fishing, or sauntering 
along the beach and through the myrtles, in quest of 
shells or entomological specimens his collection of the 
latter might have been envied by a Swammerdamm. 
In these excursions he was usually accompanied by an 
old negro, called Jupiter, who had been manumitted 
before the reverses of the family, but who could be 
induced, neither by threats nor by promises, to abandon 
what he considered his right of attendance upon the 
footsteps of his young " Massa Will." It is not im 
probable that the relatives of Legrand, conceiving him 
to be somewhat unsettled in intellect, had contrived to 
instil this obstinacy into Jupiter, with a view to the 
supervision and guardianship of the wanderer. 

The winters in the latitude of Sullivan s Island are 
seldom very severe, and in the fall of the year it is a 
rare event indeed when a fire is considered necessary. 
About the middle of October 1 8 , there occurred, how 
ever, a day of remarkable chilliness. Just before sunset 
I scrambled my way through the evergreens to the hut 
of my friend, whom I had not visited for several weeks 
my residence being, at that time, in Charleston, a 
distance of nine miles from the island, while the facili 
ties of passage and re-passage were very far behind those 
of the present day. Upon reaching the hut I rapped, 
as was my custom, and getting no reply, sought for 
the key where I knew it was secreted, unlocked the 
door, and went in. A fine fire was blazing upon the 
hearth. It was a novelty, and by no means an un 
grateful one. I threw off an overcoat, took an armchair 

30 



THE GOLD-BUG 

by the crackling logs, and awaited patiently the arrival 
of my hosts. 

Soon after dark they arrived, and gave me a most 
cordial welcome. Jupiter, grinning from ear to ear, 
bustled about to prepare some marsh-hen for supper. 
Legrand was in one of his fits how else shall I term 
them ? of enthusiasm. He had found an unknown 
bivalve, forming a new genus, and, more than this, he 
had hunted down and secured, with Jupiter s assistance, 
a scarabceus which he believed to be totally new, but in 
respect to which he wished to have my opinion on the 
morrow. 

"And why not to-night ? " I asked, rubbing my hands 
over the blaze, and wishing the whole tribe of scar a beet 
at the devil. 

" Ah, if I had only known you were here ! " said 
Legrand, " but it s so long since I saw you ; and how could 
I foresee that you would pay me a visit this very night 
of all others ? As I was coming home I met Lieutenant 

G , from the fort, and, very foolishly, I lent him 

the bug ; so it will be impossible for you to see it until 
the morning. Stay here to-night, and I will send Jup 
down for it at sunrise. It is the loveliest thing in 
creation ! " 

" What ? sunrise ? " 

" Nonsense ! no ! the bug. It is of a brilliant gold 
colour about the size of a large hickory-nut with 
two jet black spots near one extremity of the back, and 
another, somewhat longer, at the other. The antenna 
are" 

" Dey aint no tin in him, Massa Will, I keep a 
tellin on you," here interrupted Jupiter ; " de bug is 
a goole-bug, solid, ebery bit of him, inside and all, sep 
him wing neber feel half so hebby a bug in my life." 

3 1 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

" Well, suppose it is, Jup," replied Legrand, some 
what more earnestly, it seemed to me, than the case 
demanded ; " is that any reason for you letting the 
birds burn ? The colour" here he turned to me 
" is really almost enough to warrant Jupiter s idea. 
You never saw a more brilliant metallic lustre than the 
scales emit but of this you cannot judge till to-morrow. 
In the meantime I can give you some idea of the shape." 
Saying this, he seated himself at a small table, on which 
were a pen and ink, but no paper. He looked for some 
in a drawer, but found none. 

" Never mind," he said at length, " this will 
answer " ; and he drew from his waistcoat pocket a 
scrap of what I took to be very dirty foolscap, and 
made upon it a rough drawing with the pen. While 
he did this, I retained my seat by the fire, for I was 
still chilly. When the design was complete, he handed 
it to me without rising. As I received it, a loud growl 
was heard, succeeded by scratching at the door. Jupiter 
opened it, and a large Newfoundland, belonging to 
Legrand, rushed in, leaped upon my shoulders, and 
loaded me with caresses ; for I had shown him much 
attention during previous visits. When his gambols 
were over, I looked at the paper, and, to speak the 
truth, found myself not a little puzzled at what my 
friend had depicted. 

" Well ! " I said, after contemplating it for some 
minutes, " this is a strange scarabaus, I must confess ; 
new to me ; never saw anything like it before unless 
it was a skull, or a death s-head, which it more nearly 
resembles than anything else that has come under my 
observation." 

" A death s-head ! " echoed Legrand. " Oh yes 
well, it has something of that appearance upon paper, 

3 2 



THE GOLD-BUG 

no doubt. The two upper black spots look like eyes, 
eh ? and the longer one at the bottom like a mouth 
and then the shape of the whole is oval." 

" Perhaps so," said I ; " but, Legrand, I fear you are 
no artist. I must wait until I see the beetle itself, if I 
am to form any idea of its personal appearance." 

" Well, I don t know," said he, a little nettled, " I 
draw tolerably should do it at least have had good 
masters, and flatter myself that I am not quite a 
blockhead." 

" But, my dear fellow, you are joking then," said I, 
" this is a very passable skull indeed, I may say that 
it is a very excellent skull, according to the vulgar 
notions about such specimens of physiology and your 
scarabaus must be the queerest scarabaus in the world 
if it resembles it. Why, we may get up a very 
thrilling bit of superstition upon this hint. I presume 
you will call the bug scarabaus caput hominis^ or some 
thing of that kind there are many similar titles in the 
Natural Histories. But where are the antenna you 
spoke of ? " 

" The antenna I " said Legrand, who seemed to be 
getting unaccountably warm upon the subject ; " I am 
sure you must see the antennae. I made them as distinct 
as they are in the original insect, and I presume that is 
sufficient." 

" Well, well," I said, " perhaps you have still I 
don t see them ; " and I handed him the paper without 
additional remark, not wishing to ruffle his temper ; 
but I was much surprised at the turn affairs had taken ; 
his ill humour puzzled me and, as for the drawing of 
the beetle, there were positively no antenna visible, and 
the whole did bear a very close resemblance to the 
ordinary cuts of a death s-head. 

c 33 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

He received the paper very peevishly, and was about 
to crumple it, apparently to throw it in the fire, when 
a casual glance at the design seemed suddenly to rivet 
his attention. In an instant his face grew violently red 
in another as excessively pale. For some minutes he 
continued to scrutinise the drawing minutely where he 
sat. At length he arose, took a candle from the table, 
and proceeded to seat himself upon a sea-chest in the 
furthest corner of the room. Here again he made an 
anxious examination of the paper ; turning it in all 
directions. He said nothing, however, and his conduct 
greatly astonished me ; yet I thought it prudent not to 
exacerbate the growing moodiness of his temper by any 
comment. Presently he took from his coat-pocket a 
wallet, placed the paper carefully in it, and deposited 
both in a writing desk, which he locked. He now 
grew more composed in his demeanour ; but his original 
air of enthusiasm had quite disappeared. Yet he seemed 
not so much sulky as abstracted. As the evening wore 
away he became more and more absorbed in reverie, 
from which no sallies of mine could arouse him. It 
had been my intention to pass the night at the hut, as I 
had frequently done before, but, seeing my host in this 
mood, I deemed it proper to take leave. He did not 
press me to remain, but, as I departed, he shook my 
hand with even more than his usual cordiality. 

It was about a month after this (and during the 
interval I had seen nothing of Legrand) when I received 
a visit at Charleston from his man, Jupiter. I had 
never seen the good old negro look so dispirited, and 
I feared that some serious disaster had befallen my 
friend. 

" Well, Jup," said I, " what is the matter now ? 
how is your master ? " 

34 



THE GOLD-BUG 

" Why, to speak de troof, massa, him not so berry 
well as mought be." 

" Not well ; I am truly sorry to hear it. What 
does he complain off " 

" Dar ! dat s it ! he neber plain of notin but 
him berry sick for all dat." 

" Very sick, Jupiter ! why didn t you say so at 
once ? Is he confined to bed ? " 

" No, dat he aint ! he aint fin d nowhar dat s just 
whar de shoe pinch my mind is got to be berry hebby 
bout poor Massa Will." 

"Jupiter, I should like to understand what it is you 
are talking about. You say your master is sick. Hasn t 
he told you what ails him ? " 

" Why, massa, taint worf while for to git mad 
about de matter Massa Will say noffin at all aint de 
matter wid him but den what make him go about look 
ing dis here way, wid he head down and he soldiers up, 
and as white as a gose ? And den he keep a syphon 
all de time " 

" Keeps a what, Jupiter ? " 

" Keeps a syphon wid de figgurs on de slate de 
queerest figgurs I ebber did see. Ise gettin to be 
skeered, I tell you. Hab for to keep mighty tight eye 
pon him noovers. Todder day he gib me slip fore 
de sun up and was gone de whole ob de blessed day. 
I had a big stick ready cut for to gib him deuced 
good beating when he did come but Ise sich a fool 
dat I hadn t de heart arter all he looked so berry 
poorly." 

" Eh ? what ? ah yes ! upon the whole I think 
you had better not be too severe with the poor fellow 
don t flog him, Jupiter he can t very well stand it 
but can you form no idea of what has occasioned this 

35 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

illness, or rather this change of conduct ? Has anything 
unpleasant happened since I saw you ? " 

" No, massa, dey aint bin noffin onpleasant since den 
*t was fore den I m feared t was de berry day 
you was dare." 

" How ? what do you mean ? " 

" Why, massa, I mean de bug dare now." 

" The what ? " 

" De bug I m berry sartain dat Massa Will bin bit 
somewhere bout de head by dat goole-bug." 

" And what cause have you, Jupiter, for such a 
supposition ? " 

" Claws enuff, massa, and mouff too. I nebber did 
see sich a deuced bug he kick and he bite ebery ting 
what cum near him. Massa Will cotch him fuss, but 
had for to let him go gin mighty quick, I tell you 
den was de time he must ha got de bite. I didn t like 
de look ob de bug mouff, myself, nohow, so I wouldn t 
take hold ob him wid my finger, but I cotch him wid 
a piece ob paper dat I found. I rap him up in de 
paper and stuff a piece of it in he mouff dat was de 
way." 

" And you think, then, that your master was really 
bitten by the beetle, and that the bite made him sick f " 

" I don t think noffin about it I nose it. What 
make him dream bout de goole so much, if taint cause 
he bit by the goole-bug ? Ise heerd bout dem goole- 
bugs fore dis." 

" But how do you know he dreams about gold ? " 

" How I know ? why, cause he talk about it in he 
sleep dat s how I nose." 

" Well, Jup, perhaps you are right ; but to what 
fortunate circumstances am I to attribute the honour of 
a visit from you to-day ? " 

36 



THE GOLD-BUG 

" What de matter, massa ? " 

" Did you bring any message from Mr. Legrand ? " 
" No, massa, I bring dis here pissel ; " and here 
Tupiter handed me a note which ran thus : 

" MY DEAR 

" Why have I not seen you for so long a time ? I hope you 
have not been so foolish as to take offence at any little brusquerie of 
mine ; but no, that is improbable. 

"Since I saw you I have had great cause for anxiety. I have some 
thing to tell you, yet scarcely know how to tell it, or whether I should 
tell it at all. 

" I have not been quite well for some days past, and poor old Jup 
annoys me, almost beyond endurance, by his well-meant attentions. 
Would you believe it ? he had prepared a huge stick, the other day, 
with which to chastise me for giving him the slip, and spending the day, 
solusj among the hills on the mainland. I verily believe that my ill looks 
alone saved me a flogging. 

" I have made no addition to my cabinet since we met. 

" If you can, in any way, make it convenient, come over with Jupiter. 
Do come. I wish to see you to-night, upon business of importance. I 
assure you that it is of the highest importance. Ever yours, 

" WILLIAM LEGRAND." 

There was something in the tone of this note which 
gave me great uneasiness. Its whole style differed 
materially from that of Legrand. What could he be 
dreaming of ? What new crotchet possessed his excit 
able brain ? What " business of the highest import 
ance " could he possibly have to transact ? Jupiter s 
account of him boded no good. I dreaded lest the 
continued pressure of misfortune had, at length, fairly un 
settled the reason of my friend. Without a moment s 
hesitation, therefore, I prepared to accompany the negro. 

Upon reaching the wharf, I noticed a scythe and 
three spades, all apparently new, lying in the bottom 
of the boat in which we were to embark. 

" What is the meaning of all this, Jup ? " I 
inquired. 

37 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

" Him syfe, massa, and spade." 

" Very true ; but what are they doing here ? " 

" Him de syfe and de spade what Massa Will sis 
pon my buying for him in de town, and de debbil s 
own lot of money I had to gib for em." 

" But what, in the name of all that is mysterious, is 
your Massa Will going to do with scythes and spades?" 

" Dat s more dan / know, and debbil take me if I 
don t b lieve tis more dan he know too. But it s all 
cum ob de bug." 

Finding that no satisfaction was to be obtained ot 
Jupiter, whose whole intellect seemed to be absorbed by 
" de bug," I now stepped into the boat, and made sail. 
With a fair and strong breeze we soon ran into the 
little cove to the northward of Fort Moultrie, and a 
walk of some two miles brought us to the hut. It 
was about three in the afternoon when we arrived. 
Legrand had been awaiting us in eager expectation. 
He grasped my hand with a nervous empressement which 
alarmed me and strengthened the suspicions already 
entertained. His countenance was pale even to ghast- 
liness, and his deep-set eyes glared with unnatural 
lustre. After some inquiries respecting his health, I 
asked him, not knowing what better to say, if he had 
yet obtained the scarabaus from Lieutenant G . 

" Oh, yes," he replied, colouring violently, " I got 
it from him the next morning. Nothing should tempt 
me to part with that scarabaus. Do you know that 
Jupiter is quite right about it ? " 

" In what way," I asked, with a sad foreboding at 
heart. 

" In supposing it to be a bug of real gold" He 
said this with an air of profound seriousness, and I felt 
inexpressibly shocked. 

38 



THE GOLD-BUG 

" This bug is to make my fortune," he continued, 
with a triumphant smile ; " to reinstate me in my 
family possessions. Is it any wonder, then, that I 
prize it ? Since Fortune has thought fit to bestow it 
upon me, I have only to use it properly, and I shall 
arrive at the gold of which it is the index. Jupiter, 
bring me that sc a rabceus ! " 

" What ! de bug, massa ? I d rudder not go fer 
trubble dat bug ; you mus git him for your own self." 
Hereupon Legrand arose, with a grave and stately air, 
and brought me the beetle from a glass case in which 
it was enclosed. It was a beautiful scarabceus^ and, at 
that time, unknown to naturalists of course a great 
prize in a scientific point of view. There were two 
round black spots near one extremity of the back, and 
a long one near the other. The scales were exceedingly 
hard and glossy, with all the appearance of burnished 
gold. The weight of the insect was very remarkable, 
and, taking all things into consideration, I could hardly 
blame Jupiter for his opinion respecting it ; but what 
to make of Legrand s concordance with that opinion, I 
could not, for the life of me, tell. 

" I sent for you," said he, in a grandiloquent tone, 
when I had completed my examination of the beetle, "I 
sent for you that I might have your counsel and assist 
ance in furthering the views of Fate and of the bug " 

" My dear Legrand," I cried, interrupting him, 
" you are certainly unwell, and had better use some 
little precautions. You shall go to bed, and I will 
remain with you a few days, until you get over this. 
You are feverish and " 

" Feel my pulse," said he. 

I felt it, and to say the truth, found not the slightest 
indication of fever. 

39 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

" But you may be ill and yet have no fever. Allow 
me this once to prescribe for you. In the first place 
go to bed. In the next " 

" You are mistaken," he interposed, " I am as well 
as I can expect to be under the excitement which I 
suffer. If you really wish me well, you will relieve 
this excitement." 

" And how is this to be done ? " 

" Very easily. Jupiter and myself are going upon 
an expedition into the hills, upon the mainland, and, in 
this expedition, we shall need the aid of some person 
in whom we can confide. You are the only one we can 
trust. Whether we succeed or fail, the excitement which 
you now perceive in me will be equally allayed." 

" I am anxious to oblige you in any way," I re 
plied ; " but do you mean to say that this infernal 
beetle has any connection with your expedition into 
the hills ? " 

" It has." 

" Then, Legrand, I can become a party to no such 
absurd proceeding." 

" I am sorry very sorry for we shall have to try 
it by ourselves." 

" Try it by yourselves ! The man is surely mad ! 
but stay ! how long do you propose to be absent ? " 

" Probably all night. We shall start immediately, 
and be back, at all events, by sunrise." 

" And you will promise me, upon your honour, 
that when this freak of yours is over, and the bug 
business (good God !) settled to your satisfaction, you 
will then return home and follow my advice implicitly, 
as that of your physician." 

" Yes, I promise ; and now let us be off, for we have 
no time to lose." 
40 



THE GOLD-BUG 

With a heavy heart I accompanied my friend. We 
started about four o clock Legrand, Jupiter, the dog, 
and myself. Jupiter had with him the scythe and 
spades the whole of which he insisted upon carrying 
more through fear, it seemed to me, of trusting 
either of the implements within reach of his master, 
than from any excess of industry or complaisance. His 
demeanour was dogged in the extreme, and " dat deuced 
bug" were the sole words which escaped his lips during 
the journey. For my own part, I had charge of a 
couple of dark lanterns, while Legrand contented him 
self with the scarabezus^ which he carried attached to 
the end of a bit of whip-cord ; twirling it to and fro, 
with the air of a conjuror, as he went. When I 
observed this last, plain evidence of my friend s aberra 
tion of mind, I could scarcely refrain from tears. I 
thought it best, however, to humour his fancy, 
at least for the present, or until I could adopt some 
more energetic measures with a chance of success. In 
the meantime I endeavoured, but all in vain, to sound 
him in regard to the object of the expedition. Having 
succeeded in inducing me to accompany him, he seemed 
unwilling to hold conversation upon any topic of minor 
importance, and to all my questions vouchsafed no other 
reply than " we shall see ! " 

We crossed the creek at the head of the island by 
means of a skiff, and, ascending the high grounds on 
the shore of the mainland, proceeded in a north-westerly 
direction, through a tract of country excessively wild and 
desolate, where no trace of a human footstep was to be 
seen. Legrand led the way with decision, pausing only 
for an instant, here and there, to consult what appeared 
to be certain landmarks of his own contrivance upon a 
former occasion. 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

In this manner we journeyed for about two hours, 
and the sun was just setting when we entered a region in 
finitely more dreary than any yet seen. It was a species of 
tableland, near the summit of an almost inaccessible hill, 
densely wooded from base to pinnacle, and interspersed 
with huge crags that appeared to lie loosely upon the 
soil, and in many cases were prevented from precipitating 
themselves into the valleys below, merely by the support 
of the trees against which they reclined. Deep ravines, 
in various directions, gave an air of still sterner solemnity 
to the scene. 

The natural platform to which we had clambered was 
thickly overgrown with brambles, through which we 
soon discovered that it would have been impossible to 
force our way but for the scythe ; and Jupiter, by direc 
tion of his master, proceeded to clear for us a path to the 
foot of an enormously tall tulip-tree, which stood, with 
some eight or ten oaks, upon the level, and far surpassed 
them all, and all other trees which I had then ever seen, 
in the beauty of its foliage and form, in the wide spread 
of its branches, and in the general majesty of its appear 
ance. When we reached this tree, Legrand turned 
to Jupiter and asked him if he thought he could climb 
it. The old man seemed a little staggered by the ques 
tion, and for some moments made no reply. At length 
he approached the huge trunk, walked slowly around it, 
and examined it with minute attention. When he had 
completed his scrutiny, he merely said : 

" Yes, massa, Jup climb any tree he ebber see in he 
life." 

" Then up with you as soon as possible, for it will 
soon be too dark to see what we are about." 

" How far mus go up, massa ? " inquired Jupiter. 

" Get up the main trunk first, and then I will tell 
42 



THE GOLD-BUG 

you which way to go and here stop ! take this 
beetle with you." 

" De bug, Massa Will ! de goole-bug ! " cried the 
negro, drawing back in dismay " what for mus tote de 
bug way up de tree ? d n if I do ! " 

" If you are afraid, Jup, a great big negro like you, 
to take hold of a harmless little dead beetle, why you 
can carry it up by this string but, if you do not take 
it up with you in some way, I shall be under the 
necessity of breaking your head with this shovel." 

" What de matter now, massa ! " said Jup, evidently 
shamed into compliance ; " always want for to raise 
fuss wid old nigger. Was only funnin anyhow. Me 
feered de bug ! what I keer for de bug ? " Here he 
took cautiously hold of the extreme end of the string, 
and, maintaining the insect as far from his person as 
circumstances would permit, prepared to ascend the 
tree. 

In youth, the tulip-tree or Liriodendron Tulipiferum, 
the most magnificent of American foresters, has a trunk 
peculiarly smooth, and often rises to a great height 
without lateral branches ; but, in its riper age, the bark 
becomes gnarled and uneven, while many short limbs 
make their appearance on the stem. Thus the difficulty 
of ascension, in the present case, lay more in semblance 
than in reality. Embracing the huge cylinder, as 
closely as possible, with his arms and knees, seizing with 
his hands some projections, and resting his naked toes 
upon others, Jupiter, after one or two narrow escapes 
from falling, at length wriggled himself into the first 
great fork, and seemed to consider the whole business 
as virtually accomplished. The risk of the achieve 
ment was, in fact, now over, although the climber was 
some sixty or seventy feet from the ground. 

43 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

" Which way mus go now, Massa Will ? " he 
asked. 

" Keep up the largest branch the one on this side," 
said Legrand. The negro obeyed him promptly, and 
apparently with but little trouble ; ascending higher 
and higher, until no glimpse of his squat figure could 
be obtained through the dense foliage which enveloped 
it. Presently his voice was heard in a sort of halloo. 

" How much fudder is got for go ? " 

" How high up are you ? " asked Legrand. 

" Ebber so fur," replied the negro ; " can see de 
sky fru de top ob de tree." 

" Never mind the sky, but attend to what I say. 
Look down the trunk and count the limbs below you 
on this side. How many limbs have you passed ? " 

" One, two, three, four, fibe I done pass fibe big 
limb, massa, pon dis side." 

" Then go one limb higher." 

In a few minutes the voice was heard again, an 
nouncing that the seventh limb was attained. 

" Now, Jup," cried Legrand, evidently much ex 
cited, " I want you to work your way out upon that 
limb as far as you can. If you see anything strange 
let me know." 

By this time what little doubt I might have enter 
tained of my poor friend s insanity was put finally at 
rest. I had no alternative but to conclude him stricken 
with lunacy, and I became seriously anxious about 
getting him home. While I was pondering upon what 
was best to be done, Jupiter s voice was again heard. 

" Mos feered for to venture pon dis limb berry far 
tis dead limb putty much all de way." 

" Did you say it was a dead limb, Jupiter ? " cried 
Legrand in a quavering voice. 

44 



THE GOLD-BUG 

" Yes, massa, him dead as de door-nail done 
up for sartain done departed dis here life." 

" What in the name of heaven shall I do ? " asked 
Legrand, seemingly in the greatest distress. 

" Do ! " said I, glad of an opportunity to interpose 
a word, " why come home and go to bed. Come now ! 
that s a fine fellow. It s getting late, and, besides, 
you remember your promise." 

"Jupiter," cried he, without heeding me in the 
least, " do you hear me ? " 

" Yes, Massa Will, hear you ebber so plain." 

"Try the wood well, then, with your knife, and 
see if you think it very rotten." 

" Him rotten, massa, sure nuff," replied the negro 
in a few moments, "but not so berry rotten as mought 
be. Mought venture out leetle way pon de limb by 
myself, dat s true." 

" By yourself ! what do you mean ? " 

" Why, I mean de bug. Tis berry hebby bug. 
S pose I drop him down fuss, and den de limb won t 
break wid just de weight ob one nigger." 

" You infernal scoundrel 1 " cried Legrand, appa 
rently much relieved, " what do you mean by telling 
me such nonsense as that ? As sure as you drop that 
beetle I ll break your neck. Look here, Jupiter, do you 
hear me ? " 

" Yes, massa, needn t hollo at poor nigger dat 
style." 

" Well I now listen ! if you will venture out on the 
limb as far as you think safe, and not let go the beetle, 
I ll make you a present of a silver dollar as soon as you 
get down." 

" I m gwine, Massa Will deed I is," replied the 
negro very promptly " mos out to the eend now." 

45 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

" Out to the end I " -here fairly screamed Legrand ; 
" do you say you are out to the end of that limb ? " 

" Soon be to de eend massa o-o-o-o-oh ! Lor-gol- 
a-marcy ! what is dis here pon de tree ? " 

" Well ! " cried Legrand, highly delighted, " what 
is it ? " 

" Why taint noffin but a skull somebody bin lef 
him head up de tree, and de crows done gobble ebery 
bit of de meat off." 

" A skull, you say ! very well, how is it fastened 
to the limb ? what holds it on ? " 

" Sure nuff, massa ; must look. Why dis berry 
curous sarcumstance, pon my word dare s a great big 
nail in de skull, what fastens ob it on to de tree." 

" Well now, Jupiter, do exactly as I tell you do 
you hear ? " 

" Yes massa." 

" Pay attention, then find the left eye of the 
skull." 

" Hum ! hoo ! dat s good ! why dey ain t no eye 
lef at all." 

" Curse your stupidity ! Do you know your right 
hand from your left." 

" Yes, I knows dat knows all bout dat tis my 
lef hand what I chops de wood wid." 

" To be sure ! you are left-handed ; and your left 
eye is on the same side as your left hand. Now, I 
suppose, you can find the left eye of the skull, or the 
place where the left eye has been. Have you found 
it?" 

Here was a long pause. At length the negro 
asked : 

" Is de lef eye of de skull pon de same side as de 
lef hand side of de skull too ? cause de skull ain t 



THE GOLD-BUG 

got not a bit ob a hand at all nebber mind ! I got 
de lef eye now here de lef eye ! what mus do wid it ? " 

" Let the beetle drop through it, as far as the string 
will reach but be careful and not let go your hold of 
the string." 

" All dat done, Massa Will ; mighty easy ting for to 
put de bug fru de hole look out for him dare below ! " 

During this colloquy no portion of Jupiter s person 
could be seen ; but the beetle, which he had suffered 
to descend, was now visible at the end of the string, 
and glistened, like a globe of burnished gold, in the last 
rays of the setting sun, some of which still faintly illu 
mined the eminence upon which we stood. The 
scarab&us hung quite clear of any branches, and, if 
allowed to fall, would have fallen at our feet. Legrand 
immediately took the scythe, and cleared with it a cir 
cular space, three or four yards in diameter, just beneath 
the insect, and, having accomplished this, ordered Jupiter 
to let go the string and come down from the tree. 

Driving a peg, with great nicety, into the ground, 
at the precise spot where the beetle fell, my friend now 
produced from his pocket a tape-measure. Fastening 
one end of this at that point of the trunk of the tree 
which was nearest the peg, he unrolled it till it reached 
the peg and thence further unrolled it, in the direction 
already established by the two points of the tree and 
the peg, for the distance of fifty feet Jupiter clearing 
away the brambles with the scythe. At the spot thus 
attained a second peg was driven, and about this, as a 
centre, a rude circle, about four feet in diameter, 
described. Taking now a spade himself, and giving 
one to Jupiter and one to me, Legrand begged us to 
set about digging as quickly as possible. 

To speak the truth, I had no especial relish for such 

47 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

amusement at any time, and, at that particular moment, 
would most willingly have declined it ; for the night 
was coming on, and I felt much fatigued with the 
exercise already taken ; but I saw no mode of escape, 
and was fearful of disturbing my poor friend s equani 
mity by a refusal. Could I have depended, indeed, 
upon Jupiter s aid, I would have had no hesitation in 
attempting to get the lunatic home by force ; but I 
was too well assured of the old negro s disposition, to 
hope that he would assist me, under any circumstances, 
in a personal contest with his master. I made no doubt 
that the latter had been infected with some of the 
innumerable Southern superstitions about money buried, 
and that his phantasy had received confirmation by the 
finding of the scarab aus, or, perhaps, by Jupiter s 
obstinacy in maintaining it to be " a bug of real gold." 
A mind disposed to lunacy would readily be led away 
by such suggestions especially if chiming in with 
favourite preconceived ideas and then I called to mind 
the poor fellow s speech about the beetle s being " the 
index of his fortune." Upon the whole, I was sadly 
vexed and puzzled, but, at length, I concluded to make 
a virtue of necessity to dig with a good will, and 
thus the sooner to convince the visionary, by ocular 
demonstration, of the fallacy of the opinions he enter 
tained. 

The lanterns having been lit, we all fell to work with 
a zeal worthy a more rational cause ; and, as the glare 
fell upon our persons and implements, I could not help 
thinking how picturesque a group we composed, and 
how strange and suspicious our labours must have ap 
peared to any interloper who, by chance, might have 
stumbled upon our whereabouts. 

We dug very steadily for two hours. Little was 



THE GOLD-BUG 

said ; and our chief embarrassment lay in the yelpings of 
the dog, who took exceeding interest in our proceedings. 
He at length became so obstreperous that we grew 
fearful of his giving the alarm to some stragglers in 
the vicinity or, rather, this was the apprehension of 
Legrand ; for myself, I should have rejoiced at any 
interruption which might have enabled me to get the 
wanderer home. The noise was at length very effectually 
silenced by Jupiter, who, getting out of the hole with 
a dogged air of deliberation, tied the brute s mouth up 
with one of his suspenders, and then returned, with a 
grave chuckle, to his task. 

When the time mentioned had expired, we had 
reached a depth of five feet, and yet no signs of any 
treasure became manifest. A general pause ensued, and 
I began to hope that the farce was at an end. Legrand, 
however, although evidently much disconcerted, wiped 
his brow thoughtfully and recommenced. We had 
excavated the entire circle of four feet diameter, and 
now we slightly enlarged the limit, and went to the 
farther depth of two feet. Still nothing appeared. The 
gold-seeker, whom I sincerely pitied, at length clam 
bered from the pit, with the bitterest disappointment 
imprinted upon every feature, and proceeded, slowly 
and reluctantly, to put on his coat, which he had thrown 
off at the beginning of his labour. In the meantime I 
made no remark. Jupiter, at a signal from his master, 
began to gather up his tools. This done, and the dog 
having been unmuzzled, we turned in profound silence 
toward home. 

We had taken, perhaps, a dozen steps in this 
direction, when, with a loud oath, Legrand strode 
up to Jupiter and seized him by the collar. The 
astonished negro opened his eyes and mouth to 

D 49 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

the fullest extent, let fall the spades, and fell upon 
his knees. 

" You scoundrel ! " said Legrand, hissing out the 
syllables from between his clenched teeth " you infernal 
black villain ! speak, I tell you ! answer me this 
instant, without prevarication ! which which is your 
left eye ? " 

" Oh, my golly, Massa Will ! aint dis here my lef 
eye for sartain ? " roared the terrified Jupiter, placing his 
hand upon his right organ of vision, and holding it there 
with a desperate pertinacity, as if in immediate dread of 
his master s attempt at a gouge. 

" I thought so ! I knew it ! hurrah ! " vociferated 
Legrand, letting the negro go, and executing a series of 
curvets and caracols, much to the astonishment of his 
valet, who, arising from his knees, looked mutely from 
his master to myself, and then from myself to his 
master. 

" Come ! we must go back," said the latter, " the 
game s not up yet ; " and he again led the way to the 
tulip-tree. 

" Jupiter," said he, when we reached its foot, " come 
here ! Was the skull nailed to the limb with the face 
outward, or with the face to the limb ? " 

" De face was out, massa, so dat de crows could get 
at de eyes good, widout any trouble." 

" Well, then, was it this eye or that through which 
you dropped the beetle ? " here Legrand touched each 
of Jupiter s eyes. 

" Twas dis eye, massa de lef eye -jis as you tell 
me," and here it was his right eye that the negro 
indicated. 

"That will do we must try it again." 

Here my friend, about whose madness I now saw, 

5 



THE GOLD-BUG 

or fancied that I saw, certain indications of method, 
removed the peg which marked the spot where the 
beetle fell, to a spot about three inches to the westward 
of its former position. Taking, now, the tape-measure 
from the nearest point of the trunk to the peg as before, 
and continuing the extension in a straight line to the 
distance of fifty feet, a spot was indicated removed by 
several yards from the point at which we had been 
digging. 

Around the new position a circle, somewhat larger 
than in the former instance, was now described, and we 
again set to work with the spade. I was dreadfully 
weary, but, scarcely understanding what had occasioned 
the change in my thoughts, I felt no longer any great 
aversion from the labour imposed. I had become most 
unaccountably interested nay, even excited. Perhaps 
there was something, amid all the extravagant de 
meanour of Legrand some air of forethought, or of 
deliberation, which impressed me. I dug eagerly, and 
now and then caught myself actually looking, with 
something that very much resembled expectation, for 
the fancied treasure, the vision of which had demented 
my unfortunate companion. At a period when such 
vagaries of thought most fully possessed me, and when 
we had been at work perhaps an hour and a half, we 
were again interrupted by the violent bowlings of the 
dog. His uneasiness, in the first instance, had been 
evidently but the result of playfulness or caprice, but he 
now assumed a bitter and serious tone. Upon Jupiter s 
again attempting to muzzle him, he made furious re 
sistance, and, leaping into the hole, tore up the mould 
frantically with his claws. In a few seconds he had 
uncovered a mass of human bones, forming two com 
plete skeletons, intermingled with several buttons of 

5 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

metal, and what appeared to be the dust of decayed 
woollen. One or two strokes of a spade upturned the 
blade of a large Spanish knife, and, as we dug farther, 
three or four loose pieces of gold and silver coin came 
to light. 

At sight of these the joy of Jupiter could scarcely 
be restrained, but the countenance of his master wore 
an air of extreme disappointment. He urged us, how 
ever to continue our exertions, and the words were 
hardly uttered when I stumbled and fell forward, having 
caught the toe of my boot in a large ring of iron that 
lay half buried in the loose earth. 

We now worked in earnest, and never did I pass 
ten minutes of more intense excitement. During this 
interval we had fairly unearthed an oblong chest of 
wood, which, from its perfect preservation and wonder 
ful hardness, had plainly been subjected to some 
mineralising process perhaps that of the bi-chloride 
of mercury. This box was three feet and a half long, 
three feet broad, and two and a half feet deep. It was 
firmly secured by bands of wrought iron, riveted, and 
forming a kind of open trellis-work over the whole. 
On each side of the chest, near the top, were three rings 
of iron six in all by means of which a firm hold 
could be obtained by six persons. Our utmost united 
endeavours served only to disturb the coffer very slightly 
in its bed. We at once saw the impossibility of removing 
so great a weight. Luckily, the sole fastenings of the 
lid consisted of two sliding bolts. These we drew back 
trembling and panting with anxiety. In an instant, 
a treasure of incalculable value lay gleaming before us. 
As the rays of the lanterns fell within the pit, there 
flashed upward a glow and a glare from a confused heap 
of gold and of jewels, that absolutely dazzled our eyes. 

52 



THE GOLD-BUG 

I shall not pretend to describe the feelings with 
which I gazed. Amazement was, of course, predomi 
nant. Legrand appeared exhausted with excitement, 
and spoke very few words. Jupiter s countenance wore, 
for some minutes, as deadly a pallor as it is possible, in 
the nature of things, for any negro s visage to assume. 
He seemed stupefied thunderstricken. Presently he 
fell upon his knees in the pit, and burying his naked 
arms up to the elbows in gold, let them there remain, 
as if enjoying the luxury of a bath. At length, with a 
deep sigh, he exclaimed, as if in a soliloquy : 

"And dis all cum ob de goole-bug ! de putty goole- 
bug ! de poor little goole-bug, what I boosed in dat 
sabage kind ob style ! Aint you shamed ob yourself, 
nigger ? answer me dat ! " 

It became necessary, at last, that I should arouse 
both master and valet to the expediency of removing 
the treasure. It was growing late, and it behoved us 
to make exertion, that we might get everything housed 
before daylight. It was difficult to say what should be 
done, and much time was spent in deliberation so 
confused were the ideas of all. We, finally, lightened 
the box by removing two-thirds of its contents, when 
we were enabled, with some trouble, to raise it from 
the hole. The articles taken out were deposited among 
the brambles, and the dog left to guard them, with 
strict orders from Jupiter, neither, upon any pretence, 
to stir from the spot nor to open his mouth until our 
return. We then hurriedly made for home with the 
chest ; reaching the hut in safety, but after excessive 
toil, at one o clock in the morning. Worn out as we 
were, it wasi not in human nature to do more imme 
diately. We rested until two, and had supper: starting 
for the hills immediately afterwards, armed with three 

53 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

stout sacks, which, by good luck, were upon the pre 
mises. A little before four we arrived at the pit, divided 
the remainder of the booty, as equally as might be, 
among us, and, leaving the holes unfilled, again set out 
for the hut, at which, for the second time, we deposited 
our golden burthens, just as the first faint streaks of 
the dawn gleamed from over the tree-tops in the East. 

We were now thoroughly broken down ; but the 
intense excitement of the time denied us repose. After 
an unquiet slumber of some three or four hours dura 
tion, we arose, as if by preconcert, to make examination 
of our treasure. 

The chest had been full to the brim, and we spent 
the whole day, and the greater part of the next night, 
in a scrutiny of its contents. There had been nothing 
like order or arrangement. Everything had been 
heaped in promiscuously. Having assorted all with 
care, we found ourselves possessed of even vaster wealth 
than we had at first supposed. In coin there was 
rather more than four hundred and fifty thousand 
dollars estimating the value of the pieces, as accu 
rately as we could, by the tables of the period. There 
was not a particle of silver. All was gold of antique 
date and of great variety French, Spanish, and German 
money, with a few English guineas, and some counters, 
of which we had never seen specimens before. There 
were several very large and heavy coins, so worn that we 
could make nothing of their inscriptions. There was 
no American money. The value of the jewels we 
found more difficult in estimating. There were dia 
monds some of them exceedingly large and fine a 
hundred and ten in all, and not one of them small ; 
eighteen rubies of remarkable brilliancy ; three hun 
dred and ten emeralds, all very beautiful ; and twenty- 

54 



THE GOLD-BUG 

one sapphires, with an opal. These stones had all been 
broken from their settings and thrown loose in the 
chest. The settings themselves, which we picked out 
from among the other gold, appeared to have been 
beaten up with hammers, as if to prevent identification. 
Besides all this, there was a vast quantity of solid gold 
ornaments : nearly two hundred massive finger and ear 
rings ; rich chains thirty of these, if I remember ; 
eighty-three very large and heavy crucifixes ; five gold 
censers of great value ; a prodigious golden punch 
bowl, ornamented with richly chased vine-leaves and 
Bacchanalian figures ; with two sword-handles, exqui 
sitely embossed, and many other smaller articles which 
I cannot recollect. The weight of these valuables 
exceeded three hundred and fifty pounds avoirdupois ; 
and in this estimate I have not included one hundred 
and ninety-seven superb gold watches ; three of the 
number being worth each five hundred dollars, if one. 
Many of them were very old, and as timekeepers value 
less ; the works having suffered more or less from 
corrosion but all were richly jewelled and in cases of 
great worth. We estimated the entire contents of the 
chest, that night, at a million and a half of dollars ; and 
upon the subsequent disposal of the trinkets and jewels 
(a few being retained for our own use), it was found 
that we had greatly under-valued the treasure. 

When, at length, we had concluded our examination, 
and the intense excitement of the time had, in some 
measure, subsided, Legrand, who saw that I was dying 
with impatience for a solution of this most extraordinary 
riddle, entered into a full detail of all the circum 
stances connected with it. 

" You remember," said he, " the night when I 
handed you the rough sketch I had made of the scara- 

55 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

baus. You recollect also, that I became quite vexed 
at you for insisting that my drawing resembled a^death s- 
head. When you first made this assertion, I thought 
you were jesting ; but afterwards I called to mind the 
peculiar spots on the back of the insect, and admitted 
to myself that your remark had some little foundation 
in fact. Still, the sneer at my graphic powers irritated 
me for I am considered a good artist and, therefore, 
when you handed me the scrap of parchment, I was 
about to crumple it up and throw it angrily into the 
fire." 

" The scrap of paper, you mean," said I. 

" No ; it had much of the appearance of paper, and 
at first I supposed it to be such, but when I came to 
draw upon it, I discovered it at once to be a piece of 
very thin parchment. It was quite dirty you remember. 
Well, as I was in the very act of crumpling it up, my 
glance fell upon the sketch at which you had been 
looking, and you may imagine my astonishment when 
I perceived, in fact, the figure of a death s-head just 
where it seemed to me I had made the drawing of the 
beetle. For a moment I was too much amazed to 
think with accuracy. I knew that my design was very 
different in detail from this although there was a 
certain similarity in general outline. Presently I took a 
candle, and seating myself at the other end of the room, 
proceeded to scrutinise the parchment more closely. 
Upon turning it over, I saw my own sketch upon the 
reverse, just as I had made it. My first idea, now, was 
mere surprise at the really remarkable similarity of 
outline at the singular coincidence involved in the 
fact that, unknown to me, there should have been a 
skull upon the other side of the parchment, immediately 
beneath my figure of the scarabceus^ and that this 

56 



THE GOLD-BUG 

skull, not only in outline, but in size, should so closely 
resemble my drawing. I say the singularity of this 
coincidence absolutely stupefied me for a time. This 
is the usual effect of such coincidences. The mind 
struggles to establish a connection a sequence of 
cause and effect and, being unable to do so, suffers a 
species of temporary paralysis. But when I recovered 
from this stupor, there dawned upon me gradually a 
conviction which startled me even far more than the 
coincidence. I began distinctly, positively, to remember 
that there had been no drawing upon the parchment 
when I made my sketch of the scarabaus. I became 
perfectly certain ol this ; for I recollected turning up 
first one side and then the other, in search of the 
cleanest spot. Had the skull been then there, of course 
I could not have failed to notice it. Here was indeed 
a mystery which I felt it impossible to explain ; but, 
even at that early moment, there seemed to glimmer, 
faintly, within the most remote and secret chambers of 
my intellect, a glow-worm-like conception of that truth 
which last night s adventure brought to so magnificent 
a demonstration. I arose at once, and putting the parch 
ment securely away, dismissed all further reflection until 
I should be alone. 

" When you had gone, and when Jupiter was fast 
asleep, I betook myself to a more methodical investiga 
tion of the affair. In the first place I considered the 
manner in which the parchment had come into my pos 
session. The spot where we discovered the sc&rabaus 
was on the coast of the mainland, about a mile eastward 
of the island, and but a short distance above high-water 
mark. Upon my taking hold of it, it gave me a sharp 
bite, which caused me to let it drop. Jupiter, with his 
accustomed caution, before seizing the insect, which 

57 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

had flown toward him, looked about him for a leaf, or 
something of that nature, by which to take hold of it. 
It was at this moment that his eyes, and mine also, fell 
upon the scrap of parchment, which I then supposed to 
be paper. It was lying half buried in the sand, a corner 
sticking up. Near the spot where we found it, I 
observed the remnants of the hull of what appeared to 
have been a ship s long-boat. The wreck seemed to 
have been there for a very great while ; for the resem 
blance to boat timbers could scarcely be traced. 

" Well, Jupiter picked up the parchment, wrapped 
the beetle in it, and gave it to me. Soon afterwards we 
turned to go home, and on the way met Lieutenant 

G . I showed him the insect, and he begged me to 

let him take it to the fort. Upon my consenting, he 
thrust it forthwith into his waistcoat pocket, without the 
parchment in which it had been wrapped, and which I 
had continued to hold in my hand during his inspection. 
Perhaps he dreaded my changing my mind, and thought 
it best to make sure of the prize at once you know how 
enthusiastic he is on all subjects connected with Natural 
History. At the same time, without being conscious of 
it, I must have deposited the parchment in my own 
pocket. 

" You remember that when I went to the table, for 
the purpose of making a sketch of the beetle, I found no 
paper where it was usually kept. I looked in the drawer, 
and found none there. I searched my pockets, hoping 
to find an old letter, when my hand fell upon the parch 
ment. I thus detail the precise mode in which it came 
into my possession ; for the circumstances impressed me 
with peculiar force. 

" No doubt you will think me fanciful but I had 
already established a kind of connection. I had put together 

58 



THE GOLD-BUG 

two links of a great chain. There was a boat lying upon 
a sea-coast, and not far from the boat was a parchment 
not a paper with a skull depicted upon it. You will, 
of course, ask * where is the connection ? I reply that 
the skull, or death s-head, is the well-known emblem of 
the pirate. The flag of the death s-head is hoisted in 
all engagements. 

" I have said that the scrap was parchment, and not 
paper. Parchment is durable almost imperishable. 
Matters of little moment are rarely consigned to parch 
ment ; since for the mere ordinary purposes of drawing 
or writing, it is not nearly so well adapted as paper. 
This reflection suggested some meaning some relevancy 
in the death s-head. I did not fail to observe, also, 
iheform of the parchment. Although one of its corners 
had been, by some accident, destroyed, it could be seen 
that the original form was oblong. It was just such a 
slip, indeed, as might have been chosen for a memo 
randum fora record of something to be long remem 
bered and carefully preserved." 

" But," I interposed, " you say that the skull was not 
upon the parchment when you made the drawing of the 
beetle. How then do you trace any connection between 
the boat and the skull since this latter, according to 
your own admission, must have been designed (God only 
knows how or by whom) at some period subsequent to 
your sketching the scarabaus ? " 

" Ah, hereupon turns the whole mystery ; although 
the secret, at this point, I had comparatively little diffi 
culty in solving. My steps were sure, and could afford 
but a single result. I reasoned, for example, thus : When 
I drew the scarabaus, there was no skull apparent upon 
the parchment. When I had completed the drawing I 
gave it to you, and observed you narrowly until you 

59 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

returned it. Tou, therefore, did not design the skull, and 
no one else was present to do it. Then it was not done 
by human agency. And nevertheless it was done. 

" At this stage of my reflections I endeavoured to 
remember, and did remember, with entire distinctness, 
every incident which occurred about the period in ques 
tion. The weather was chilly (oh, rare and happy acci 
dent !), and a fire was blazing upon the hearth. I was 
heated with exercise and sat near the table. You, how 
ever, had drawn a chair close to the chimney. Just as I 
had placed the parchment in your hand, and as you were 
in the act of inspecting it, Wolf, the Newfoundland, 
entered, and leaped upon your shoulders. With your left 
hand you caressed him, and kept him off, while your 
right, holding the parchment, was permitted to fall list 
lessly between your knees, and in close proximity to the 
fire. At one moment I thought the blaze had caught it, 
and was about to caution you, but, before I could speak, 
you had withdrawn it, and were engaged in its examina 
tion. When I considered all these particulars, I doubted 
not for a moment that heat had been the agent in bringing 
to light, upon the parchment, the skull which I saw 
designed upon it. You are well aware that chemical 
preparations exist, and have existed time out of mind, 
by means of which it is possible to write upon either 
paper or vellum, so that the characters shall become 
visible only when subjected to the action of fire. Zaffire, 
digested in aqua regia, and diluted with four times its 
weight of water, is sometimes employed ; a green tint 
results. The regulus of cobalt, dissolved in spirit of nitre, 
gives a red. These colours disappear at longer or shorter 
intervals after the material written upon cools, but again 
become apparent upon the re-application of heat. 
- " I now scrutinised the death s-head with care. Its 
60 



THE GOLD-BUG 

outer edges the edges of the drawing nearest the edge 
of the vellum were far more distinct than the others. 
It was clear that the action of the caloric had been 
imperfect or unequal. I immediately kindled a fire, 
and subjected every portion of the parchment to a 
glowing heat. At first, the only effect was the 
strengthening of the faint lines in the skull ; but, upon 
persevering in the experiment, there became visible, at 
the corner of the slip, diagonally opposite to the spot 
in which the death s-head was delineated, the figure of 
what I at first supposed to be a goat. A closer scrutiny, 
however, satisfied me that it was intended for a kid." 

" Ha ! ha ! " said I, "to be sure I have no right to 
laugh at you a million and a half of money is too 
serious a matter for mirth but you are not about to 
establish a third link in your chain you will not find 
any especial connection between your pirates and a 
goat pirates, you know, have nothing to do with 
goats ; they appertain to the farming interest." 

" But I have just said that the figure was not that 
of a goat." 

" Well, a kid then pretty much the same thing." 

" Pretty much, but not altogether," said Legrand. 
" You may have heard of one Captain Kidd. I at once 
looked upon the figure of the animal as a kind of pun 
ning or hieroglyphical signature. I say signature ; 
because its position upon the vellum suggested this 
idea. The death s-head at the corner diagonally opposite 
had, in the same manner, the air of a stamp, or seal. 
But I was sorely put out by the absence of all else of 
the body to my imagined instrument of the text for 
my context." 

" I presume you expected to find a letter between 
the stamp and the signature." 

6l 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

" Something of that kind. The fact is, I felt 
irresistibly impressed with a presentiment of some vast 
good fortune impending. I can scarcely say why. 
Perhaps, after all, it was rather a desire than an actual 
belief ; but do you know that Jupiter s silly words, 
about the bug being of solid gold, had a remarkable 
effect upon my fancy ? And then the series of accidents 
and coincidences these were so very extraordinary. 
Do you observe how mere an accident it was that 
these events should have occurred upon the sole day of 
all the year in which it has been, or may be, sufficiently 
cool for fire, and that without the fire, or without the 
intervention of the dog at the precise moment in 
which he appeared, I should never have become aware 
of the death s-head, and so never the possessor of the 
treasure. * 

" But proceed I am all impatience." 
" Well ; you have heard, of course, the many stories 
current the thousand vague rumours afloat about 
money buried, somewhere upon the Atlantic coast, by 
Kidd and his associates. These rumours must have 
had some foundation in fact. And that the rumours 
have existed so long and so continuous, could have 
resulted, it appeared to me, only from the circumstance 
of the buried treasure still remaining entombed. Had 
Kidd concealed his plunder for a time, and afterward 
reclaimed it, the rumours would scarcely have reached 
us in their present unvarying form. You will observe 
that the stories told are all about money-seekers, not 
about money-finders. Had the pirate recovered his 
money, there the affair would have dropped. It 
seemed to me that some accident say the loss of a 
memorandum indicating its locality had deprived him 
of the means of recovering it, and that this accident 
62 



THE GOLD-BUG 

had become known to his followers, who otherwise 
might never have heard that treasure had been con 
cealed at all, and who, busying themselves in vain, 
because unguided, attempts to regain it, had first given 
birth, and then universal currency, to the reports which 
are now so common. Have you ever heard of any 
important treasure being unearthed along the coast ? " 

" Never." 

" But that Kidd s accumulations were immense, is 
well known. I took it for granted, therefore, that the 
earth still held them ; and you will scarcely be surprised 
when I tell you that I felt a hope, nearly amounting 
to certainty, that the parchment so strangely found 
involved a lost record of the place of deposit." 

" But how did you proceed ? " 

" I held the vellum again to the fire, after increasing 
the heat, but nothing appeared. I now thought it 
possible that the coating of dirt might have something 
to do with the failure : so I carefully rinsed the parch 
ment by pouring warm water over it, and, having done 
this, I placed it in a tin pan, with the skull downward, 
and put the pan upon a furnace of lighted charcoal. 
In a few minutes, the pan having become thoroughly 
heated, I removed the slip, and, to my inexpressible joy, 
found it spotted, in several places, with what appeared 
to be figures arranged in lines. Again I placed it in the 
pan, and suffered it to remain another minute. Upon 
taking it off, the whole was just as you see it now." 

Here Legrand, having re-heated the parchment, sub 
mitted it to my inspection. The following characters 
were rudely traced, in a red tint, between the death s- 
head and the goat : 



6 3 



TALES OF MYSTERY 
I(;49S62( S 



;48)4j;i6i;:i88jt?; 

" But," said I, returning him the slip, " I am as much 
in the dark as ever. Were all the jewels of Golconda 
awaiting me upon my solution of this enigma, I am 
quite sure that I should be unable to earn them." 

" And yet," said Legrand, " the solution is by no 
means so difficult as you might be led to imagine from 
the first hasty inspection of the characters. These 
characters, as any one might readily guess, form a cipher 
that is to say, they convey a meaning ; but then 
from what is known of Kidd, I could not suppose him 
capable of constructing any of the more abstruse crypto 
graphs. I made up my mind, at once, that this was of 
a simple species such, however, as would appear, to 
the crude intellect of the sailor, absolutely insoluble 
without the key." 

" And you really solved it ? " 

" Readily ; I have solved others of an abstruseness 
ten thousand times greater. Circumstances, and a 
certain bias of mind, have led me to take interest in 
such riddles, and it may well be doubted whether human 
ingenuity can construct an enigma of the kind which 
human ingenuity may not, by proper application, resolve. 
In fact, having once established connected and legible 
characters, I scarcely gave a thought to the mere diffi 
culty of developing their import. 

" In the present case indeed in all cases of secret 
writing the first question regards the language of the 
cipher ; for the principles of solution, so far, especially, 
as the more simple ciphers are concerned, depend upon, 
and are varied by, the genius of the particular idiom. 
In general, there is no alternative but experiment 



THE GOLD-BUG 

(directed by probabilities) of every tongue known to 
him who attempts the solution, until the true one be 
attained. But, with the cipher now before us all diffi 
culty was removed by the signature. The pun upon the 
word Kidd is appreciable in no other language than 
the English. But for this consideration I should have 
begun my attempts with the Spanish and French, as the 
tongues in which a secret of this kind would most natu 
rally have been written by a pirate of the Spanish main. 
As it was, I assumed the cryptograph to be English. 

" You observe there are no divisions between the 
words. Had there been divisions the task would have 
been comparatively easy. In such cases I should have 
commenced with a collation and analysis of the shorter 
words, and, had a word of a single letter occurred, as is 
most likely (a or /, for example), I should have con 
sidered the solution as assured. But, there being no 
division, my first step was to ascertain the predominant 
letters, as well as the least frequent. Counting all, I 
constructed a table thus : 

Of the character 8 there are 33. 
; 55 26. 

4 19- 
-T-) 1 6. 

* T -7 

55 l .} 

5 12. 

6 ii. 
ti 8. 

o 6. 

92 5. 

: 3 4- 

? 5, 3 

f 2. 

. ,, i . 

E 65 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

" Now, in English, the letter which most frequently 
occurs is e. Afterward, the succession runs thus : a o i 
d hn r s tuy c f g Imwbkpqxz. E predominates so 
remarkably, that an individual sentence of any length is 
rarely seen, in which it is not the prevailing character. 

" Here, then, we have, in the very beginning, the 
groundwork for something more than a mere guess. 
The general use which may be made of the table is 
obvious but, in this particular cipher, we shall only 
very partially require its aid. As our predominant 
character is 8, we will commence by assuming it as the 
e of the natural alphabet. To verify the supposition, 
let us observe if the 8 be seen often in couples for e is 
doubled with great frequency in English in such words, 
for example, as meet, fleet/ c speed, c seen, been, 
agree/ &c. In the present instance we see it doubled no 
less than five times, although the cryptograph is brief. 

" Let us assume 8, then, as e. Now, of all words in 
the language, the is most usual ; let us see, therefore, 
whether there are not repetitions of any three characters, 
in the same order of collocation, the last of them being 
8. If we discover repetitions of such letters, so arranged, 
they will most probably represent the word the. Upon 
inspection, we find no less than seven such arrange 
ments, the characters being 548. We may therefore 
assume that ; represents /, 4 represents /$, and 8 repre 
sents e the last being now well confirmed. Thus a 
great step has been taken. 

" But, having established a single word, we are 
enabled to establish a vastly important point ; that is 
to say, several commencements and terminations of other 
words. Let us refer, for example, to the last instance 
but one, in which the combination 548 occurs not far 
from the end of the cipher. We know that the ; 
66 



THE GOLD-BUG 

immediately ensuing is the commencement of a word, 
and, of the six characters succeeding this the, we are 
cognisant of no less than five. Let us set these cha 
racters down, thus, by the letters we know them to 
represent, leaving a space for the unknown : 

t eeth. 

" Here we are enabled, at once, to discard the c M, 
as forming no portion of the word commencing with 
the first /; since, by experiment of the entire alphabet 
for a letter adapted to the vacancy, we perceive that no 
word can be formed of which this th can be a part. 
We are thus narrowed into 

t ee, 

and, going through the alphabet, if necessary, as before, 
we arrive at the word tree as the sole possible read 
ing. We thus gain another letter, r, represented by (, 
with the words the tree in juxtaposition. 

" Looking beyond these words, for a short distance, 
we again see the combination 548, and employ it by 
way of termination to what immediately precedes. We 
have thus this arrangement : 

the tree ;4(J?34 the, 

or, substituting the natural letters, where known, it 
reads thus : 

the tree thrj.^h the. 

" Now, if, in place of the unknown characters, 
we leave blank spaces, or substitute dots, we read thus : 

the tree thr...h the, 

when the word c through makes itself evident at once. 
But this discovery gives us three new letters,!?, #, andg, 
represented by J, ?, and 3. 

" Looking now, narrowly, through the cipher for 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

combinations of known characters, we find, not very far 
from the beginning, this arrangement, 

83(88, or egree, 

which, plainly is the conclusion of the word degree, 
and gives us another letter, </, represented by -|". 

" Four letters beyond the word degree, we perceive 
the combination 



" Translating the known characters, and represent 
ing the unknown by dots, as before, we read thus : 

th.rtee, 

an arrangement immediately suggestive of the word 
4 thirteen, and again furnishing us with two new 
characters, / and n represented by 6 and *. 

" Referring, now, to the beginning of the crypto 
graph, we find the combination, 

ssttt- 

" Translating as before, we obtain 

.good, 

which assures us that the first letter is A^ and that the 
first two words are A good. 

" It is now time that we arrange our key, as far as 
discovered, in a tabular form, to avoid confusion. It 
will stand thus : 5 represents a 

t d 

8 e 

3 g 

4 h 
6 i 



n 
o 



; t 
? u 
68 



THE GOLD-BUG 

" We have, therefore, no less than eleven of the 
most important letters represented, and it will be 
unnecessary to proceed with the details of the solution. 
I have said enough to convince you that ciphers of this 
nature are readily soluble, and to give you some insight 
into the rationale of their development. But be assured 
the specimen before us appertains to the very simplest 
species of cryptograph. It now only remains to give 
you the full translation of the characters upon the 
parchment, as unriddled. Here it is : 

" A good glass In the bishop s hostel in the devil s seat 
forty-one degrees and thirteen minutes northeast and by north 
main branch seventh limb east side shoot from the left eye of 
the deaths-head a bee-line from the tree through the shot 
fifty feet out: 

" But," said I, " the enigma seems still in as bad a 
condition as ever. How is it possible to extort a mean 
ing from all this jargon about devil s seats, death s- 
heads, and bishop s hotels ? " 

" I confess," replied Legrand, " that the matter still 
wears a serious aspect, when regarded with a casual 
glance. My first endeavour was to divide the sen 
tence into the natural division intended by the 
cryptographist." 

" You mean, to punctuate it ? " 

" Something of that kind." 

" But how was it possible to effect this ? " 

" I reflected that it had been a point with the writer 
to run his words together without division, so as to 
increase the difficulty of solution. Now, a not over- 
acute man, in pursuing such an object, would be nearly 
certain to overdo the matter. When, in the course of 
his composition, he arrived at a break in his subject 
which would naturally require a pause, or a point, he 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

would be exceedingly apt to run his characters, at this 
place, more than usually close together. If you will 
observe the MS., in the present instance, you will easily 
detect five such cases of unusual crowding. Acting 
upon this hint, I made the division thus : 

" 6 A good glass in the bishop s hostel in the devil s seat 
-forty-one degrees and thirteen minutes northeast and by 
north main branch seventh limb east side shoot from the 
left eye of the death s-head a bee-line from the tree through 
the shot fifty feet out " 

" Even this division," said I, " leaves me still in the 
dark." 

" It left me also in the dark," replied Legrand, 
" for a few days, during which I made diligent inquiry, 
in the neighbourhood of Sullivan s Island, for any build 
ing which went by the name of the Bishop s Hotel; 
for, of course, I dropped the obsolete word hostel. 
Gaining no information on the subject, I was on the 
point of extending my sphere of search, and proceeding 
in a more systematic manner, when, one morning, it 
entered into my head, quite suddenly, that this Bishop s 
Hostel might have some reference to an old family ot 
the name of Bessop, which, time out of mind, had held 
possession of an ancient manor-house, about four miles 
to the northward of the island. I accordingly went 
over to the plantation, and re-instituted my inquiries 
among the older negroes of the place. At length, one 
of the most aged of the women said that she had heard 
of such a place as Bessop s Castle, and thought that she 
could guide me to it, but that it was not a castle, nor 
a tavern, but a high rock. 

" I offered to pay her well for her trouble, and, 
after some demur, she consented to accompany me to 
70 



THE GOLD-BUG 

the spot. We found it without much difficulty, when, 
dismissing her, I proceeded to examine the place. The 
castle consisted of an irregular assemblage of cliffs 
and rocks one of the latter being quite remarkable for 
its height as well as for its insulated and artificial 
appearance. I clambered to its apex, and then felt 
much at a loss as to what should be next done. 

" While I was busied in reflection, my eyes fell 
upon a narrow ledge in the eastern face of the rock, 
perhaps a yard below the summit upon which I stood. 
This ledge projected about eighteen inches, and was not 
more than a foot wide, while a niche in the cliff just 
above it gave it a rude resemblance to one of the hollow- 
backed chairs used by our ancestors. I made no doubt 
that here was the devil s seat alluded to in the MS., 
and now I seemed to grasp the full secret of the 
riddle. 

" The good glass, I knew, could have reference to 
nothing but a telescope ; for the word glass is rarely 
employed in any other sense by seamen. Now here, I 
at once saw, was a telescope to be used, and a definite 
point of view, admitting no variation, from which to use 
it. Nor did I hesitate to believe that the phrases, c forty- 
one degrees and thirteen minutes, and northeast and 
by north, were intended as directions for the levelling ot 
the glass. Greatly excited by these discoveries, I hur 
ried home, procured a telescope, and returned to the 
rock. 

" I let myself down to the ledge, and found that it 
was impossible to retain a seat upon it except in one 
particular position. This fact confirmed my precon 
ceived idea. I proceeded to use the glass. Of course, 
the forty-one degrees and thirteen minutes could 
allude to nothing but elevation above the visible horizon, 

7 1 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

since the horizontal direction was clearly indicated by 
the words, northeast and by north. This latter 
direction I at once established by means of a pocket- 
compass ; then, pointing the glass as nearly at an angle 
of forty-one degrees of elevation as I could do it by 
guess, I moved it cautiously up or down, until my 
attention was arrested by a circular rift or opening in 
the foliage of a large tree that overtopped its fellows in 
the distance. In the centre of this rift I perceived a 
white spot, but could not at first distinguish what it 
was. Adjusting the focus of the telescope, I again 
looked, and now made it out to be a human skull. 

" Upon this discovery I was so sanguine as to con 
sider the enigma solved ; for the phrase main branch, 
seventh limb, east side, could refer only to the position 
of the skull upon the tree, while shoot from the left 
eye of the death s-head admitted, also, of but one 
interpretation, in regard to a search for buried treasure. 
I perceived that the design was to drop a bullet from 
the left eye of the skull, and that a bee-line, or, in other 
words, a straight line, drawn from the nearest point of 
the trunk through * the shot (or the spot where the 
bullet fell), and thence extended to a distance of fifty 
feet, would indicate a definite point and beneath this 
point I thought it at least possible that a deposit of value 
lay concealed." 

"All this," I said, "is exceedingly clear, and, although 
ingenious, still simple and explicit. When you left the 
Bishop s Hotel, what then ? " 

" Why, having carefully taken the bearings of the 
tree, I turned homeward. The instant that I left the 
devil s seat, however, the circular rift vanished ; nor 
could I get a glimpse of it afterward, turn as I would. 
What seems to me the chief ingenuity in this whole 
72 



THE GOLD-BUG 

business, is the fact (for repeated experiment has con 
vinced me it is a fact) that the circular opening in 
question is visible from no other attainable point of view 
than that afforded by the narrow ledge upon the face of 
the rock. 

" In this expedition to the c Bishop s Hotel I had 
been attended by Jupiter, who had, no doubt, observed 
for some weeks past the abstraction of my demeanour, 
and took especial care not so leave me alone. But, on 
the next day, getting up very early, I contrived to give 
him the slip, and went into the hills in search of the 
tree. After much toil I found it. When I came home 
at night my valet proposed to give me a flogging. With 
the rest of the adventure I believe you are as well 
acquainted as myself." 

" I suppose," said I, " you missed the spot, in the 
first attempt at digging, through Jupiter s stupidity in 
letting the bug fall through the right instead of through 
the left eye of the skull." 

" Precisely. This mistake made a difference of 
about two inches and a half in the shot that is to 
say, in the position of the peg nearest the tree ; and had 
the treasure been beneath the shot the error would have 
been of little moment ; but the shot, together with 
the nearest point of the tree, were merely two points 
for the establishment of a line of direction ; of course 
the error, however trivial in the beginning, increased as 
we proceeded with the line, and by the time we had 
gone fifty feet threw us quite off the scent. But for my 
deep-seated impressions that treasure was here somewhere 
actually buried, we might have had all our labour in 
vain." 

" But your grandiloquence, and your conduct in 
swinging the beetle how excessively odd ! I was sure 

73 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

you were mad. And why did you insist upon letting 
fall the bug, instead of a bullet, from the skull ? " 

" Why, to be frank, I felt somewhat annoyed by 
your evident suspicions touching my sanity, and so 
resolved to punish you quietly, in my own way, by a 
little bit of sober mystification. For this reason I 
swung the beetle, and for this reason I let it fall from 
the tree. An observation of yours about its great weight 
suggested the latter idea." 

" Yes, I perceive ; and now there is only one point 
which puzzles me. What are we to make of the 
skeletons found in the hole ? " 

" That is a question I am no more able to answer 
than yourself. There seems, however, only one plausible 
way of accounting for them and yet it is dreadful to 
believe in such atrocity as my suggestion would imply. 
It is clear that Kidd if Kidd, indeed, secreted this 
treasure, which I doubt not it is clear that he must 
have had assistance in the labour. But this labour 
concluded, he may have thought it expedient to remove 
all participants in his secret. Perhaps a couple of blows 
with a mattock were sufficient, while his coadjutors were 
busy in the pit ; perhaps it required a dozen who shall 
tell ? " 



74 



THE FALL OF THE HOUSE 
OF USHER 

DURING the whole of a dull, dark, and sound 
less day in the autumn of the year, when 
the clouds hung oppressively low in the 
heavens, I had been passing alone, on horse 
back, .through a singularly dreary tract of country ; and at 
length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, 
within view of the melancholy House of Usher. I know 
not how it was but, with the first glimpse of the build 
ing, a sense of insufferable gloom pervaded my spirit. I 
say insufferable ; for the feeling was unrelieved by any 
of that half-pleasurable, because poetic, sentiment, with 
which the mind usually receives even the sternest natural 
images of the desolate or terrible. I looked upon the 
scene before me upon the mere house, and the simple 
landscape features of the domain upon the bleak walls 
upon the vacant eye-like windows upon a few rank 
sedges and upon a few white trunks of decayed trees 
with an utter depression of soul which I can compare to 
no earthly sensation more properly than to the after- 
dream of the reveller upon opium the bitter lapse into 
everyday life the hideous dropping off of the veil. There 
was an iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart an 
unredeemed dreariness of thought which no goading of 
the imagination could torture into aught of the sublime. 
What was it I paused to think what was it that so 
unnerved me in the contemplation of the House of 
Usher ? It was a mystery all insoluble ; nor could I 
grapple with the shadowy fancies that crowded upon me 
as I pondered. I was forced to fall back upon the un 
satisfactory conclusion, that while, beyond doubt, there 
are combinations of very simple natural objects which 

75 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

have the power of thus affecting us, still the analysis ot 
this power lies among considerations beyond our depth. 
It was possible, I reflected, that a mere different arrange 
ment of the particulars of the scene, of the details of the 
picture, would be sufficient to modify, or perhaps to 
annihilate its capacity for sorrowful impression ; and, 
acting upon this idea, I reined my horse to the precipitous 
brink of a black and lurid tarn that lay in unruffled lustre 
by the dwelling, and gazed down but with a shudder 
even more thrilling than before upon the remodelled 
and inverted images of the grey sedge, and the ghastly 
tree-stems, and the vacant and eye-like windows. 

Nevertheless, in this mansion of gloom I now pro 
posed to myself a sojourn of some weeks. Its proprietor, 
Roderick Usher, had been one of my boon companions 
in boyhood ; but many years had elapsed since our last 
meeting. A letter, however, had lately reached me in a 
distant part of the country a letter from him which, 
in its wildly importunate nature, had admitted of no 
other than a personal reply. The MS. gave evidence 
of nervous agitation. The writer spoke of acute bodily 
illness of a mental disorder which oppressed him and 
of an earnest desire to see me, as his best, and indeed his 
only personal friend, with a view of attempting, by the 
cheerfulness of my society, some alleviation of his malady. 
It was the manner in which all this, and much more, 
was said it was the apparent heart that went with his 
request which allowed me no room for hesitation ; and 
I accordingly obeyed forthwith what I still considered 
a very singular summons. 

Although, as boys, we had been even intimate asso 
ciates, yet I really knew little of my friend. His reserve 
had been always excessive and habitual. I was aware, 
however, that his very ancient family had been noted, 



THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER 

time out of mind, for a peculiar sensibility of tempera 
ment, displaying itself, through long ages, in many works 
of exalted art, and manifested, of late, in repeated deeds 
of munificent yet unobtrusive charity, as well as in a 
passionate devotion to the intricacies, perhaps even more 
than to the orthodox and easily recognisable beauties, of 
musical science. I had learned, too, the very remarkable 
fact, that the stem of the Usher race, all time-honoured 
as it was, had put forth, at no period, any enduring 
branch ; in other words, that the entire family lay in the 
direct line of descent, and had always, with very trifling 
and very temporary variation, so lain. It was this defi 
ciency, I considered, while running over in thought the 
perfect keeping of the character of the premises with the 
accredited character of the people, and while speculating 
upon the possible influence which the one, in the long 
lapse of centuries, might have exercised upon the other 
it was this deficiency, perhaps, of collateral issue, and 
the consequent undeviating transmission, from sire to 
son, of the patrimony with the name, which had, at 
length, so identified the two as to merge the original 
title of the estate in the quaint and equivocal appellation 
of the " House of Usher " an appellation which seemed 
to include, in the minds of the peasantry who used it, 
both the family and the family mansion. 

I have said that the sole effect of my somewhat 
childish experiment that of looking down within the 
tarn had been to deepen the first singular impression. 
There can be no doubt that the consciousness of the 
rapid increase of my superstition for why should I not 
so term it ? served mainly to accelerate the increase 
itself. Such, I have long known, is the paradoxical 
law of all sentiments having terror as a basis. And it 
might have been for this reason only, that, when I again 

77 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

uplifted my eyes to the house itself, from its image in 
the pool, there grew in my mind a strange fancy a 
fancy so ridiculous, indeed, that I but mention it to show 
the vivid force of the sensations which oppressed me. I 
had so worked upon my imagination as really to believe 
that about the whole mansion and domain there hung 
an atmosphere peculiar to themselves and their imme 
diate vicinity an atmosphere which had no affinity 
with the air of heaven, but which had reeked up from 
the decayed trees, and the grey wall, and the silent tarn 
a pestilent and mystic vapour, dull, sluggish, faintly 
discernible, and leaden-hued. 

Shaking off from my spirit what must have been a 
dream, I scanned more narrowly the real aspect of the 
building. Its principal feature seemed to be that of an 
excessive antiquity. The discolouration of ages had been 
great. Minute fungi overspread the whole exterior, 
hanging in a fine tangled web-work from the eaves. Yet 
all this was apart from any extraordinary dilapidation. 
No portion of the masonry had fallen ; and there 
appeared to be a wild inconsistency between its still 
perfect adaptation of parts, and the crumbling condition 
of the individual stones. In this there was much that 
reminded me of the specious totality of old woodwork 
which has rotted for long years in some neglected vault, 
with no disturbance from the breath of the external air. 
Beyond this indication of extensive decay, however, the 
fabric gave little token of instability. Perhaps the eye of 
a scrutinising observer might have discovered a barely 
perceptible fissure, which, extending from the roof of 
the building in front, made its way down the wall in a 
zigzag direction, until it became lost in the sullen waters 
of the tarn. 

Noticing these things, I rode over a short causeway 

78 



THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER 

to the house. A servant in waiting took my horse, and 
I entered the Gothic archway of the hall. A valet, of 
stealthy step, thence conducted me, in silence, through 
many dark and intricate passages in my progress to the 
studio of his master. Much that I encountered on the 
way contributed, I know not how, to heighten the 
vague sentiments of which I have already spoken. 
While the objects around me while the carvings of 
the ceilings, the sombre tapestries of the walls, the ebon 
blackness of the floors, and the phantasmagoric armorial 
trophies which rattled as I strode, were but matters to 
which, or to such as which, I had been accustomed 
from my infancy while I hesitated not to acknow 
ledge how familiar was all this I still wondered to 
find how unfamiliar were the fancies which ordinary 
images were stirring up. On one of the staircases, I 
met the physician of the family. His countenance, I 
thought, wore a mingled expression of low cunning and 
perplexity. He accosted me with trepidation and passed 
on. The valet now threw open a door and ushered me 
into the presence of his master. 

The room in which I found myself was very large 
and lofty. The windows were long, narrow, and 
pointed, and at so vast a distance from the black oaken 
floor as to be altogether inaccessible from within. 
Feeble gleams of encrimsoned light made their way 
through the trellised panes, and served to render suffi 
ciently distinct the more prominent objects around ; 
the eye, however, struggled in vain to reach the remoter 
angles of the chamber, or the recesses of the vaulted 
and fretted ceiling. Dark draperies hung upon the 
walls. The general furniture was profuse, comfortless, 
antique, and tattered. Many books and musical instru 
ments lay scattered about, but failed to give any vitality 

79 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

to the scene. I felt that I breathed an atmosphere 
of sorrow. An air of stern, deep, and irredeemable 
gloom hung over and pervaded all. 

Upon my entrance, Usher arose from a sofa on 
which he had been lying at full length, and greeted me 
with a vivacious warmth which had much in it, I at 
first thought, of an overdone cordiality of the con 
strained effort of the ennuye man of the world. A 
glance, however, at his countenance, convinced me of his 
perfect sincerity. We sat down ; and for some moments, 
while he spoke not, I gazed upon him with a feeling 
half of pity, half of awe. Surely, man had never 
before so terribly altered, in so brief a period, as had 
Roderick Usher ! It was with difficulty that I could 
bring myself to admit the identity of the wan being 
before me with the companion of my early boyhood. 
Yet the character of his face had been at all times 
remarkable. A cadaverousness of complexion ; an eye 
large, liquid, and luminous beyond comparison ; lips 
somewhat thin and very pallid, but of a surpassingly 
beautiful curve ; a nose of a delicate Hebrew model, 
but with a breadth of nostril unusual in similar forma 
tions ; a finely-moulded chin, speaking, in its want of 
prominence, of a want of moral energy ; hair of a more 
than web-like softness and tenuity ; these features, with 
an inordinate expansion above the regions of the temple, 
made up altogether a countenance not easily to be for 
gotten. And now in the mere exaggeration of the 
prevailing character of these features, and of the expres 
sion they were wont to convey, lay so much of change 
that I doubted to whom I spoke. The now ghastly 
pallor of the skin, and the now miraculous lustre of the 
eye, above all things startled and even awed me. The 
silken hair, too, had been suffered to grow all unheeded, 
80 



THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER 

and as, in its wild gossamer texture, it floated rather 
than fell about the face, I could not, even with effort, 
connect its arabesque expression with any idea of 
simple humanity. 

In the manner of my friend I was at once struck 
with an incoherence an inconsistency ; and I soon 
found this to arise from a series of feeble and futile 
struggles to overcome an habitual trepidancy an 
excessive nervous agitation. For something of this 
nature I had indeed been prepared, no less by his 
letter, than by reminiscences of certain boyish traits, 
and by conclusions deduced from his peculiar physical 
conformation and temperament. His action was alter 
nately vivacious and sullen. His voice varied rapidly 
from a tremulous indecision (when the animal spirits 
seemed utterly in abeyance) to that species of energetic 
concision that abrupt, weighty, unhurried, and hollow- 
sounding enunciation that leaden, self-balanced and 
perfectly modulated guttural utterance, which may be 
observed in the lost drunkard, or the irreclaimable 
eater of opium, during the periods of his most intense 
excitement. 

It was thus that he spoke of the object of my visit, 
of his earnest desire to see me, and of the solace he 
expected me to afford him. He entered, at some 
length, into what he conceived to be the nature of his 
malady. It was, he said, a constitutional and a family 
evil, and one for which he despaired to find a remedy 
a mere nervous affection, he immediately added, which 
would undoubtedly soon pass off. It displayed itself in 
a host of unnatural sensations. Some of these, as he 
detailed them, interested and bewildered me ; although, 
perhaps, the terms, and the general manner of the 
narration had their weight. He suffered much from a 

F 81 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

morbid acuteness of the senses ; the most insipid food 
was alone endurable ; he could wear only garments ot 
certain texture ; the odours of all flowers were oppres 
sive ; his eyes were tortured by even a faint light ; and 
there were but peculiar sounds, and these from stringed 
instruments, which did not inspire him with horror. 

To an anomalous species of terror I found him a 
bounden slave. " I shall perish," said he, " I must 
perish in this deplorable folly. Thus, thus, and not 
otherwise, shall I be lost. I dread the events of the 
future, not in themselves, but in their results. I shudder 
at the thought of any, even the most trivial, incident, 
which may operate upon this intolerable agitation of 
soul. I have, indeed, no abhorrence of danger, except 
in its absolute effect in terror. In this unnerved in 
this pitiable condition I feel that the period will sooner 
or later arrive when I must abandon life and reason 
together, in some struggle with the grim phantasm, 
FEAR. 

I learned, moreover, at intervals, and through broken 
and equivocal hints, another singular feature of his 
mental condition. He was enchained by certain super 
stitious impressions in regard to the dwelling which he 
tenanted, and whence, for many years, he had never 
ventured forth in regard to an influence whose sup 
posititious force was conveyed in terms too shadowy 
here to be re-stated an influence which some peculiari 
ties in the mere form and substance of his family man 
sion, had, by dint of long sufferance, he said, obtained 
over his spirit an effect which ti\t physique of the grey 
walls and turrets, and of the dim tarn into which they 
all looked down, had, at length, brought about upon 
the morale of his existence. 

He admitted, however, although with hesitation, 
82 



that much of the peculiar gloom which thus afflicted 
him could be traced to a more natural and far more 
palpable origin to the severe and long-continued illness 
indeed to the evidently approaching dissolution of a 
tenderly beloved sister his sole companion for long 
years his last and only relative on earth. " Her 
decease," he said, with a bitterness which I can never 
forget, " would leave him (him the hopeless and the 
frail) the last of the ancient race of the Ushers." While 
he spoke, the Lady Madeline (for so was she called) 
passed slowly through a remote portion of the apartment 
and, without having noticed my presence, disappeared. 
I regarded her with an utter astonishment not unmin- 
gled with dread and yet I found it impossible to 
account for such feelings. A sensation of stupor 
oppressed me, as my eyes followed her retreating steps. 
When a door, at length, closed upon her, my glance 
sought instinctively and eagerly the countenance of the 
brother but he had buried his face in his hands, and I 
could only perceive that a far more than ordinary wan 
ness had overspread the emaciated fingers through which 
trickled many passionate tears. 

The disease of the Lady Madeline had long baffled 
the skill of her physicians. A settled apathy, a gradual 
wasting away of the person, and frequent although 
transient affections of a partially cataleptical character, 
were the unusual diagnosis. Hitherto she had steadily 
borne up against the pressure of her malady, and had 
not betaken herself finally to bed ; but, on the closing 
in of the evening of my arrival at the house, she suc 
cumbed (as her brother told me at night with inexpres 
sible agitation) to the prostrating power of the destroyer; 
and I learned that the glimpse I had obtained of her 
person would thus probably be the last I should obtain 

83 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

that the lady, at least while living, would be seen by 
me no more. 

For several days ensuing, her name was unmentioned 
by either Usher or myself : and during this period I 
was busied in earnest endeavours to alleviate the melan 
choly of my friend. We painted and read together ; 
or I listened, as if in a dream, to the wild improvisations 
of his speaking guitar. And thus, as a closer and still 
closer intimacy admitted me more unreservedly into the 
recesses of his spirit, the more bitterly did I perceive 
the futility of all attempt at cheering a mind from 
which darkness, as if an inherent positive quality, poured 
forth upon all objects of the moral and physical universe 
in one unceasing radiation of gloom. 

I shall ever bear about me a memory of the many 
solemn hours I thus spent alone with the master of the 
House of Usher. Yet I should fail in any attempt to 
convey an idea of the exact character of the studies, or 
of the occupations, in which he involved me, or led me 
the way. An excited and highly distempered ideality 
threw a sulphurous lustre over all. His long impro 
vised dirges will ring for ever in my ears. Among 
other things, I hold painfully in mind a certain singular 
perversion and amplification of the wild air of the last 
waltz of Von Weber. From the paintings over which 
his elaborate fancy brooded, and which grew, touch by 
touch, into vagueness at which I shuddered the more 
thrillingly, because I shuddered knowing not why ; 
from these paintings (vivid as their images now are 
before me) I would in vain endeavour to educe more 
than a small portion which should lie within the compass 
of merely written words. By the utter simplicity, by 
the nakedness of his designs, he arrested and overawed 
attention. If ever mortal painted an idea, that mortal 



THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER 

was Roderick Usher. For me at least in the circum 
stances then surrounding me there arose out of the 
pure abstractions which the hypochondriac contrived to 
throw upon his canvas, an intensity of intolerable awe, no 
shadow of which felt I ever yet in the contemplation of 
the certainly glowing yet too concrete reveries of 
Fuseli. 

One of the phantasmagoric conceptions of my 
friend, partaking not so rigidly of the spirit of abstrac 
tion, may be shadowed forth, although feebly, in words. 
A small picture presented the interior of an immensely 
long and rectangular vault or tunnel, with low walls, 
smooth, white, and without interruption or device. 
Certain accessory points of the design served well to 
convey the idea that this excavation lay at an exceeding 
depth below the surface of the earth. No outlet was 
observed in any portion of its vast extent, and no 
torch, or other artificial source of light was discern 
ible ; yet a flood of intense rays rolled throughout, 
and bathed the whole in a ghastly and inappropriate 
splendour. 

I have just spoken of that morbid condition of the 
auditory nerve which rendered all music intolerable to 
the sufferer, with the exception of certain effects 01 
stringed instruments. It was, perhaps, the narrow limits 
to which he thus confined himself upon the guitar, 
which gave birth, in great measure, to the fantastic 
character of his performances. But the fervid facility 
of his impromptus could not be so accounted for. They 
must have been, and were, in the notes, as well as in 
the words of his wild fantasias (for he not unfrequently 
accompanied himself with rhymed verbal improvisa 
tions), the result of that intense mental collectedness and 
concentration to which I have previously alluded as 

8s 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

observable only in particular moments of the highest 
artificial excitement. The words of one of these rhap 
sodies I have easily remembered. I was, perhaps, the 
more forcibly impressed with it, as he gave it, because, 
in the under or mystic current of its meaning, I fancied 
that I perceived, and for the first time, a full conscious 
ness on the part of Usher, of the tottering of his lofty 
reason upon her throne. The verses, which were 
entitled " The Haunted Palace," ran very nearly, if 
not accurately, thus : 



In the greenest of our valleys, 

By good angels tenanted, 
Once a fair and stately palace 

Radiant palace reared its head. 
In the monarch Thought s dominion 

It stood there ! 
Never seraph spread a pinion 

Over fabric half so fair. 

ii 

Banners yellow, glorious, golden, 

On its roof did float and flow ; 
(This all this was in the olden 

Time long ago) 
And every gentle air that dallied, 

In that sweet day, 
Along the ramparts plumed and pallid, 

A winged odour went away. 

in 

Wanderers in that happy valley 

Through two luminous windows saw 
Spirits moving musically 

To a lute s well tuned law, 
Round about a throne, where sitting 

(Porphyrogene !) 
In state his glory well befitting, 

The ruler of the realm was seen. 

86 



THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER 

IV 

And all with pearl and ruby glowing 

Was the fair palace door, 
Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing, 

And sparkling evermore, 
A troop of Echoes whose sweet duty 

Was but to sing, 
In voices of surpassing beauty, 

The wit and wisdom of their king. 



But evil things in robes of sorrow, 

Assailed the monarch s high estate ; 
(Ah, let us mourn, for never morrow 

Shall dawn upon him, desolate !) 
And, round about his home, the glory 

That blushed and bloomed 
Is but a dim-remembered story 

Of the old time entombed. 

VI 

And travellers now within that valley, 

Through the red-litten windows, see 
Vast forms that move fantastically 

To a discordant melody ; 
While, like a rapid ghastly river, 

Through the pale door, 
A hideous throng rush out forever, 

And laugh but smile no more. 

I well remember that suggestions arising from this 
ballad, led us into a train of thought wherein there be 
came manifest an opinion of Usher s which I mention 
not so much on account of its novelty (for other men* 
have thought thus), as on account of the pertinacity 
with which he maintained it. This opinion, in its 
general form, was that of the sentience of all vegetable 
things. But in his disordered fancy, the idea had 

* Watson, Dr. Percival, Spallanzani, and especially the Bishop of LandafF. 

87 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

assumed a more daring character, and trespassed, under 
certain conditions, upon the kingdom of inorganisation. 
I lack words to express the full extent, or the earnest 
abandon of his persuasion. The belief, however, was 
connected (as I have previously hinted) with the grey 
stones of the home of his forefathers. The conditions 
of the sentience had been here, he imagined, fulfilled in 
the method of collocation of the stones in the order of 
their arrangement, as well as in that of the many fungi 
which overspread them, and of the decayed trees which 
stood around above all, in the long undisturbed en 
durance of this arrangement, and in its reduplication in 
the still waters of the tarn. Its evidence the evidence 
of the sentience was to be seen, he said (and I here 
started as he spoke) in the gradual yet certain condensa 
tion of an atmosphere of their own about the waters 
and the walls. The result was discoverable, he added, 
in that silent, yet importunate and terrible influence 
which for centuries had moulded the destinies of his 
family, and which made him what I now saw him 
what he was. Such opinions need no comment, and I 
will make none. 

Our books the books which, for years, had formed 
no small portion of the mental existence of the invalid 
were, as might be supposed, in strict keeping with this 
character of phantasm. We pored together over such 
works as the " Ververt" and "Chartreuse" of Cresset; the 
" Belphegor" of Machiavelli ; the " Heaven and Hell " 
of Swedenborg ; the " Subterranean Voyage of Nicholas 
Klimm," by Holberg ; the " Chiromancy " of Robert 
Flud, of Jean D Indagine, and of De la Chambre ; the 
" Journey into the Blue Distance " of Tieck ; and the 
" City of the Sun " of Campanella. One favourite 
volume was a small octavo edition of the " Directorium 



THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER 

Inquisitorum," by the Dominican Eymeric de Gironne; 
and there were passages in Pomponius Mela, about 
the old African Satyrs and ^gipans, over which 
Usher would sit dreaming for hours. His chief delight, 
however, was found in the perusal of an exceedingly 
rare and curious book in quarto Gothic the manual of 
a forgotten church the " Vigilia? Mortuorum Chorum 
Ecclesiae Maguntinae." 

I could not help thinking of the wild ritual of this 
work, and of its probable influence upon the hypochon 
driac, when, one evening, having informed me abruptly 
that the Lady Madeline was no more, he stated his in 
tention of preserving her corpse for a fortnight (pre 
viously to its final interment), in one of the numerous 
vaults within the main walls of the building. The 
worldly reason, however, assigned for this singular pro 
ceeding, was one which I did not feel at liberty to dispute. 
The brother had been led to his resolution (so he told 
me) by consideration of the unusual character of the 
malady of the deceased, of certain obtrusive and eager 
inquiries on the part of her medical men, and of the 
remote and exposed situation of the burial-ground of the 
family. I will not deny that when I called to mind the 
sinister countenance of the person whom I met upon the 
staircase, on the day of my arrival at the house, I had no 
desire to oppose what I regarded as at best but a harmless, 
and by no means an unnatural, precaution. 

At the request of Usher, I personally aided him in 
the arrangements for the temporary entombment. The 
body having been encoffined, we two alone bore it to 
its rest. The vault in which we placed it (and which 
had been so long unopened that our torches, half 
smothered in its oppressive atmosphere, gave us little 
opportunity for investigation) was small, damp, and 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

entirely without means of admission for light ; lying, 
at great depth, immediately beneath that portion of the 
building in which was my own sleeping apartment. It 
had been used, apparently, in remote feudal times, for 
the worst purpose of a donjon-keep, and, in later days, as 
a place of deposit for powder, or some other highly 
combustible substance, as a portion of its floor, and the 
whole interior of a long archway through which we 
reached it, were carefully sheathed with copper. The 
door, of massive iron, had been also similarly protected. 
Its immense weight caused an unusually sharp, grating 
sound, as it moved upon its hinges. 

Having deposited our mournful burden upon tressels 
within this region of horror, we partially turned aside 
the yet unscrewed lid of the coffin, and looked upon the 
face of the tenant. A striking similitude between the 
brother and sister now first arrested my attention ; and 
Usher, divining, perhaps, my thoughts, murmured out 
some few words from which I learned that the deceased 
and himself had been twins, and that sympathies of a 
scarcely intelligible nature had always existed between 
them. Our glances, however, rested not long upon the 
dead for we could not regard her unawed. The disease 
which had thus entombed the lady in the maturity of 
youth, had left, as usual in all maladies of a strictly 
cataleptical character, the mockery of a faint blush upon 
the bosom and the face, and that suspiciously lingering 
smile upon the lip which is so terrible in death. We 
replaced and screwed down the lid, and, having secured 
the door of iron, made our way with toil into the 
scarcely less gloomy apartments of the upper portion of 
the house. 

And now, some days of bitter grief having elapsed, 
an observable change came over the features of the 
90 



THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER 

mental disorder of my friend. His ordinary manner had 
vanished. His ordinary occupations were neglected or 
forgotten. He roamed from chamber to chamber with 
hurried, unequal, and objectless step. The pallor of his 
countenance had assumed, if possible, a more ghastly hue 
but the luminousness of his eye had utterly gone out. 
The once occasional huskiness of his tone was heard no 
more ; and a tremulous quaver, as if of extreme terror, 
habitually characterised his utterance. There were 
times, indeed, when I thought his unceasingly agitated 
mind was labouring with some oppressive secret, to 
divulge which he struggled for the necessary courage. 
At times, again, I was obliged to resolve all into the 
mere inexplicable vagaries of madness, for I beheld 
him gazing upon vacancy for long hours, in an atti 
tude of the profoundest attention, as if listening to 
some imaginary sound. It was no wonder that 
his condition terrified that it infected me. I felt 
creeping upon me, by slow yet certain degrees, the 
wild influences of his own fantastic yet impressive 
superstitions. 

It was, especially, upon retiring to bed late in the 
night of the seventh or eighth day after the placing of 
the Lady Madeline within the donjon, that I experienced 
the full power of such feelings. Sleep came not near 
my couch while the hours waned and waned away. 
I struggled to reason off the nervousness which had 
dominion over me. I endeavoured to believe that much, 
if not all of what I felt, was due to the bewildering 
influence of the gloomy furniture of the room of the 
dark and tattered draperies, which, tortured into motion 
by the breath of a rising tempest, swayed fitfully to 
and fro upon the walls, and rustled uneasily about the 
decorations of the bed. But my efforts were fruitless. 

91 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

An irrepressible tremor gradually pervaded my frame, 
and at length there sat upon my very heart an incubus 
of utterly causeless alarm. Shaking this off with a gasp 
and a struggle, I uplifted myself upon the pillows, and, 
peering earnestly within the intense darkness of the 
chamber, hearkened I know not why, except that an 
instinctive spirit prompted me to certain low and 
indefinite sounds which came, through the pauses of 
the storm, at long intervals, I knew not whence. 
Overpowered by an intense sentiment of horror, 
unaccountable yet unendurable, I threw on my 
clothes with haste (for I felt that I should sleep no 
more during the night), and endeavoured to arouse 
myself from the pitiable condition into which I 
had fallen, by pacing rapidly to and fro through the 
apartment. 

I had taken but few turns in this manner, when a 
light step on an adjoining staircase arrested my attention. 
I presently recognised it as that of Usher. In an instant 
afterward he rapped, with a gentle touch, at my door, 
and entered, bearing a lamp. His countenance was, as 
usual, cadaverously wan but, moreover, there was a 
species of mad hilarity in his eyes an evidently re 
strained hysteria in his whole demeanour. His air 
appalled me but anything was preferable to the 
solitude which I had so long endured, and I even 
welcomed his presence as a relief. 

" And you have not seen it ? " he said abruptly, 
after having stared about him for some moments in 
silence " you have not then seen it ? but, stay ! you 
shall." Thus speaking, and having carefully shaded his 
lamp, he hurried to one of the casements, and threw it 
freely open to the storm. 

The impetuous fury of the entering gust nearly lifted 



THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER 

us from our feet. It was, indeed, a tempestuous yet 
sternly beautiful night, and one wildly singular in its 
terror and its beauty. A whirlwind had apparently 
collected its force in our vicinity ; for there were 
frequent and violent alterations in the direction of the 
wind ; and the exceeding density of the clouds (which 
hung so low as to press upon the turrets of the house) 
did not prevent our perceiving the lifelike velocity with 
which they flew careering from all points against each 
other, without passing away into the distance. I say 
that even their exceeding density did not prevent our 
perceiving this yet we had no glimpse of the moon 
or stars nor was there any flashing forth of the 
lightning. But the under surfaces of the huge masses 
of agitated vapour, as well as all terrestrial objects 
immediately around us, were glowing in the un 
natural light of a faintly luminous and distinctly visible 
gaseous exhalation which hung about and enshrouded 
the mansion. 

"You must not you shall not behold this ! " said 
I, shuddering, to Usher, as I led him, with a gentle 
violence, from the window to a seat. " These appear 
ances, which bewilder you, are merely electrical phe 
nomena not uncommon or it may be that they have 
their ghastly origin in the rank miasma of the tarn. 
Let us close this casement the air is chilling and 
dangerous to your frame. Here is one of your favourite 
romances. I will read, and you shall listen and so we 
will pass away this terrible night together." 

The antique volume which I had taken up was the 
" Mad Trist " of Sir Launcelot Canning ; but I had 
called it a favourite of Usher s more in sad jest than in 
earnest ; for, in truth, there is little in its uncouth and 
unimaginative prolixity which could have had interest 

93 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

for the lofty and spiritual ideality of my friend. It was, 
however, the only book immediately at hand ; and I 
indulged a vague hope that the excitement which now 
agitated the hypochondriac, might find relief (for the 
history of mental disorder is full of similar anomalies) 
even in the extremeness of the folly which I should 
read. Could I have judged indeed, by the wild over 
strained air of vivacity with which he hearkened, or 
apparently hearkened, to the words of the tale, I might 
well have congratulated myself upon the success of my 
design. 

I had arrived at that well-known portion of the 
story where Ethelred, the hero of the Trist, having 
sought in vain for peaceable admission into the dwelling 
of the hermit, proceeds to make good an entrance by 
force. Here, it will be remembered, the words of the 
narrative run thus : 

" And Ethelred, who was by nature of a doughty 
heart, and who was now mighty withal, on account of 
the powerfulness of the wine which he had drunken, 
waited no longer to hold parley with the hermit, who, 
in sooth, was of an obstinate and maliceful turn, but, 
feeling the rain upon his shoulders, and fearing the 
rising of the tempest, uplifted his mace outright, and, 
with blows, made quickly room in the plankings of the 
door for his gauntleted hand ; and now pulling there 
with sturdily, he so cracked, and ripped, and tore all 
asunder, that the noise of the dry and hollow-sound 
ing wood alarmed and reverberated throughout the 
forest." 

At the termination of this sentence I started, and 
for a moment, paused ; for it appeared to me (although 
I at once concluded that my excited fancy had deceived 
me) it appeared to me that, from some very remote 

94 



THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER 

portion of the mansion, there came, indistinctly, to 
my ears, what might have been, in its exact similarity 
of character, the echo (but a stifled and dull one cer 
tainly) of the very cracking and ripping sound which 
Sir Launcelot had so particularly described. It was, 
beyond doubt, the coincidence alone which had arrested 
my attention ; for, amid the rattling of the sashes of 
the casements, and the ordinary commingled noises of 
the still increasing storm, the sound, in itself, had 
nothing, surely, which should have interested or dis 
turbed me. I continued the story : 

" But the good champion Ethelred, now entering 
within the door, was sore enraged and amazed to per 
ceive no signal of the maliceful hermit ; but, in the 
stead thereof, a dragon of a scaly and prodigious de 
meanour, and of a fiery tongue, which sate in guard 
before a palace of gold, with a floor of silver ; and 
upon the wall there hung a shield of shining brass with 
this legend enwritten : 

Who entereth herein, a conqueror hath been ; 
Who slayeth the dragon, the shield he shall win ; 

and Ethelred uplifted his mace, and struck upon the 
head of the dragon, which fell before him, and 
gave up his pesty breath, with a shriek so horrid 
and harsh, and withal so piercing, that Ethelred 
had fain to close his ears with his hands against the 
dreadful noise of it, the like whereof was never before 
heard." 

Here again I paused abruptly, and now with a 
feeling of wild amazement for there could be no doubt 
whatever that, in this instance, I did actually hear (al 
though from what direction it proceeded I found it 
impossible to say) a low and apparently distant, but 

95 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

harsh, protracted, and most unusual screaming or grating 
sound the exact counterpart of what my fancy had 
already conjured up for the dragon s unnatural shriek 
as described by the romancer. 

Oppressed, as I certainly was, upon the occurrence 
of the second and most extraordinary coincidence, by a 
thousand conflicting sensations, in which wonder and 
extreme terror were predominant, I still retained suffi 
cient presence of mind to avoid exciting, by any obser 
vation, the sensitive nervousness of my companion. I 
was by no means certain that he had noticed the sounds 
in question ; although assuredly, a strange alteration 
had, during the last few minutes, taken place in his 
demeanour. From a position fronting my own, he had 
gradually brought round his chair, so as to sit with his 
face to the door of the chamber, and thus I could but 
partially perceive his features, although I saw that his 
lips trembled as if he were murmuring inaudibly. His 
head had dropped upon his breast yet I knew that he 
was not asleep, from the wide and rigid opening of the 
eye as I caught a glance of it in profile. The motion 
of his body, too, was at variance with this idea for he 
rocked from side to side with a gentle yet constant and 
uniform sway. Having rapidly taken notice of all this, 
I resumed the narrative of Sir Launcelot, which thus 
proceeded : 

" And now, the champion, having escaped from the 
terrible fury of the dragon, bethinking himself of the 
brazen shield, and of the breaking up of the enchant 
ment which was upon it, removed the carcass from out 
of the way before him, and approached valorously over 
the silver pavement of the castle to where the shield 
was upon the wall ; which in sooth tarried not for his 
full coming, but fell down at his feet upon the silver 



THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER 

floor, with a mighty, great, and terrible ringing 
sound." 

No sooner had these syllables passed my lips, than 
as if a shield of brass had indeed, at the moment, fallen 
heavily upon a floor of silver I became aware of a 
distinct, hollow, metallic, and clangorous, yet apparently 
muffled reverberation. Completely unnerved, I leaped 
to my feet ; but the measured rocking movement of 
Usher was undisturbed. I rushed to the chair in which 
he sat. His eyes were bent fixedly before him, and 
throughout his whole countenance there reigned a 
stony rigidity. But as I placed my hand upon his 
shoulder, there came a strong shudder over his whole 
person ; a sickly smile quivered about his lips ; and I 
saw that he spoke in a low, hurried, and gibbering 
murmur, as if unconscious of my presence. Bending 
closely over him, I at length drank in the hideous 
import of his words. 

" Not hear it ? yes, I hear it, and have heard it. 
Long long long many minutes, many hours, many 
days have I heard it yet I dared not oh, pity me, 
miserable wretch that I am ! I dared not I dared not 
speak ! We have put her living in the tomb ! Said I not 
that my senses were acute ? I now tell you that I heard 
her first feeble movements in the hollow coffin. I 
heard them many, many days ago yet I dared not 
I dared not speak ! And now to-night Ethelred 
ha ! ha ! the breaking of the hermit s door, and the 
death-cry of the dragon, and the clangour of the shield ! 
say, rather, the rending of her coffin, and the grating 
of the iron hinges of her prison, and her struggles 
within the coppered archway of the vault ! Oh, 
whither shall I fly ? Will she not be here anon ? Is 
she not hurrying to upbraid me for my haste ? Have 

G 97 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

I not heard her footstep on the stair ? Do I not dis 
tinguish that heavy and horrible beating of her heart ? 
MADMAN ! " here he sprang furiously to his feet, and 
shrieked out his syllables, as if in the effort he were 
giving up his soul " MADMAN ! I TELL YOU THAT SHE 

NOW STANDS WITHOUT THE DOOR ! " 

As if in the superhuman energy of his utterance 
there had been found the potency of a spell the huge 
antique panels to which the speaker pointed, threw 
slowly back, upon the instant, their ponderous and 
ebony jaws. It was the work of the rushing gust 
but then without those doors there DID stand the lofty 
and enshrouded figure of the Lady Madeline of Usher. 
There was blood upon her white robes, and the evi 
dence of some bitter struggle upon every portion of her 
emaciated frame. For a moment she remained trem 
bling and reeling to and fro upon the threshold, then, 
with a low moaning cry, fell heavily inward upon the 
person of her brother, and in her violent and now final 
death agonies, bore him to the floor a corpse, and a 
victim to the terrors he had anticipated. 

From that chamber, and from that mansion, I fled 
aghast. The storm was still abroad in all its wrath as 
I found myself crossing the old causeway. Suddenly 
there shot along the path a wild light, and I turned to 
see whence a gleam so unusual could have issued ; for 
the vast house and its shadows were alone behind me. 
The radiance was that of the full, setting, and blood- 
red moon, which now shone vividly through that once 
barely-discernible fissure of which I have before spoken 
as extending from the roof of the building, in a zigzag 
direction to the base. While I gazed, this fissure 
rapidly widened there came a fierce breath of the 
whirlwind the entire orb of the satellite burst at once 



THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER 

upon my sight my brain reeled as I saw the mighty 
walls rushing asunder there was a long tumultuous 
shouting sound like the voice of a thousand waters 
and the deep and dank tarn at my feet closed sullenly 
and silently over the fragments of the " HOUSE OF 
USHER." 



99 



THE ASSIGNATION 

ILL-FATED and mysterious man ! bewildered in 
the brilliancy of thine own imagination, and fallen 
in the flames of thine own youth ! Again in 
fancy I behold thee ! Once more thy form hath 
risen before me ! not oh, not as thou art in the 
cold valley and shadow but as thou shouldst be 
squandering away a life of magnificent meditation in 
that city of dim visions, thine own Venice which is a 
star-beloved Elysium of the sea, and the wide windows 
of whose Palladian palaces look down with a deep and 
bitter meaning upon the secrets of her silent waters. 
Yes ! I repeat it as thou shouldst be. There are surely 
other worlds than this other thoughts than the 
thoughts of the multitude other speculations than 
the speculations of the sophist. Who then shall call 
thy conduct into question ? who blame thee for thy 
visionary hours, or denounce those occupations as a 
wasting away of life, which were but the overflowings 
of thine everlasting energies ? 

It was at Venice, beneath the covered archway 
there called the Ponte del Sospiri^ that I met for the third 
or fourth time the person of whom I speak. It is with 
a confused recollection that I bring to mind the circum 
stances of that meeting. Yet I remember ah ! how 
should I forget ? the deep midnight, the Bridge of 
Sighs, the beauty of woman, and the Genius of Romance 
that stalked up and down the narrow canal. 

It was a night of unusual gloom. The great clock 
of the Piazza had sounded the fifth hour of the Italian 
evening. The square of the Campanile lay silent and 
deserted, and the lights in the old Ducal Palace were 
dying fast away. I was returning home from the 
Piazzetta, by way of the Grand Canal. But as my 

101 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

gondola arrived opposite the mouth of the canal 
San Marco, a female voice from its recesses broke 
suddenly upon the night, in one wild, hysterical, and 
long-continued shriek. Startled at the sound, I sprang 
upon my feet : while the gondolier, letting slip his 
single oar, lost it in the pitchy darkness beyond a chance 
of recovery, and we were consequently left to the 
guidance of the current which here sets from the 
greater into the smaller channel. Like some huge and 
sable-feathered condor, we were slowly drifting down 
towards the Bridge of Sighs, when a thousand flam 
beaux, flashing from the windows and down the stair 
cases of the Ducal Palace, turned all at once that deep 
gloom into a livid and preternatural day. 

A child, slipping from the arms of its own mother, 
had fallen from an upper window of the lofty structure 
into the deep and dim canal. The quiet waters had 
closed placidly over their victim ; and, although my 
own gondola was the only one in sight, many a stout 
swimmer, already in the stream, was seeking in vain 
upon the surface, the treasure which was to be found, 
alas ! only within the abyss. Upon the broad black 
marble flagstones at the entrance of the palace, and a 
few steps above the water, stood a figure which none 
who then saw can have ever since forgotten. It was 
the Marchesa Aphrodite the adoration of all Venice 
the gayest of the gay the most lovely where all 
were beautiful but still the young wife of the old and 
intriguing Mentoni, and the mother of that fair child, 
her first and only one, who now deep beneath the murky 
water, was thinking in bitterness of heart upon her 
sweet caresses, and exhausting its little life in struggles 
to call upon her name. 

She stood alone. Her small, bare, and silvery feet 
102 



THE ASSIGNATION 

gleamed in the black mirror of marble beneath her. 
Her hair, not as yet more than half loosened for the 
night from its ball-room array, clustered, amid a 
shower of diamonds, round and round her classical 
head, in curls like those of the young hyacinth. A 
snowy-white and gauze-like drapery seemed to be 
nearly the sole covering to her delicate form ; but the 
midsummer and midnight air was hot, sullen, and still, 
and no motion in the statue-like form itself, stirred 
even the folds of that raiment of very vapour which 
hung around it as the heavy marble hangs around the 
Niobe. Yet strange to say ! her large lustrous eyes 
were not turned downwards upon that grave wherein 
her brightest hope lay buried but riveted in a widely 
different direction ! The prison of the Old Republic 
is, I think, the stateliest building in all Venice but 
how could that lady gaze so fixedly upon it, when 
beneath her lay stifling her only child ? Yon dark, 
gloomy niche, too, yawns right opposite her chamber 
window what, then, could there be in its shadows in 
its architecture in its ivy-wreathed and solemn cor 
nices that the Marchesa di Mentoni had not wondered 
at a thousand times before ? Nonsense ! Who does 
not remember that, at such a time as this, the eye like 
a shattered mirror, multiplies the images of its sorrow, 
and sees in innumerable far-off places the woe which 
is close at hand ? 

Many steps above the Marchesa, and within the 
arch of the water-gate, stood, in full dress, the Satyr- 
like figure of Mentoni himself. He was occasionally 
occupied in thrumming a guitar, and seemed ennuye to 
the very death, as at intervals he gave directions for the 
recovery of his child. Stupefied and aghast, I had my 
self no power to move from the upright position I had 

103 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

assumed upon first hearing the shriek, and must have 
presented to the eyes of the agitated group a spectral 
and ominous appearance, as with pale countenance and 
rigid limbs, I floated down among them in that funereal 
gondola. 

All efforts proved in vain. Many of the most 
energetic in the search were relaxing their exertions, 
and yielding to a gloomy sorrow. There seemed but 
little hope for the child (how much less then for the 
mother !) ; but now, from the interior of that dark niche 
which has been already mentioned as forming a part of 
the Old Republican prison, and as fronting the lattice 
of the Marchesa, a figure muffled in a cloak stepped out 
within reach of the light, and, pausing a moment upon 
the verge of the giddy descent, plunged headlong into 
the canal. As, in an instant afterwards, he stood with 
the still living and breathing child within his grasp, 
upon the marble flagstones by the side of the Marchesa, 
his cloak heavy with the drenching water, became 
unfastened, and, falling in folds about his feet, discovered 
to the wonder-stricken spectators the graceful person of 
a very young man, with the sound of whose name the 
greater part of Europe was then ringing. 

No word spoke the deliverer. But the Marchesa ! 
She will now receive her child she will press it to her 
heart she will cling to its little form, and smother it 
with her caresses. Alas ! another s arms have taken it 
from the stranger another s arms have taken it away, 
and borne it afar off, unnoticed, into the palace ! And 
the Marchesa ! Her lip her beautiful lip trembles : 
tears are gathering in her eyes those eyes which, like 
Pliny s acanthus, are " soft and almost liquid." Yes ! 
tears are gathering in those eyes and see ! the entire 
woman thrills throughout the soul, and the statue has 
104 



THE ASSIGNATION 

started into life ! The pallor of the marble counten 
ance, the swelling of the marble bosom, the very purity 
of the marble feet, we behold suddenly flushed over with 
a tide of ungovernable crimson ; and a slight shudder 
quivers about her delicate frame, as a gentle air at 
Napoli about the rich silver lilies in the grass. 

Why should that lady blush ? To this demand there 
is no answer except that, having left, in the eager 
haste and terror of a mother s heart, the privacy of her 
own boudoir^ she has neglected to enthral her tiny feet 
in their slippers, and utterly forgotten to throw over 
her Venetian shoulders that drapery which is their due. 
What other possible reason could there have been for 
her so blushing ? for the glance of those wild appealing 
eyes ? for the unusual tumult of that throbbing bosom ? 
for the convulsive pressure of that trembling hand ? 
that hand which fell, as Mentoni turned into the palace, 
accidentally, upon the hand of the stranger. What 
reason could there have been for the low the singu 
larly low tone of those unmeaning words which the 
lady uttered hurriedly in bidding him adieu f " Thou 
hast conquered " she said, or the murmurs of the 
water deceived me " thou hast conquered one hour 
after sunrise we shall meet so let it be ! " 

ffc Tjr ?fv T(V T(C 

The tumult had subsided, the lights had died away 
within the palace, and the stranger, whom I now 
recognised, stood alone upon the flags. He shook with 
inconceivable agitation, and his eye glanced around in 
search of a gondola. I could not do less than offer him 
the service of my own ; and he accepted the civility. 
Having obtained an oar at the water-gate, we pro 
ceeded together to his residence, while he rapidly 
recovered his self-possession, and spoke of our former 

105 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

slight acquaintance in terms of great apparent 
cordiality. 

There are some subjects upon which I take pleasure 
in being minute. The person of the stranger let me 
call him by this title, who to all the world was still a 
stranger the person of the stranger is one of these 
subjects. In height he might have been below rather 
than above the medium size : although there were 
moments of intense passion when his frame actually 
expanded and belied the assertion. The light, almost 
slender symmetry of his figure, promised more of that 
ready activity which he evinced at the Bridge of Sighs, 
than of that Herculean strength which he has been 
known to wield without an effort, upon occasions of 
more dangerous emergency. With the mouth and chin 
of a deity singular, wild, full, liquid eyes, whose 
shadows varied from pure hazel to intense and brilliant 
jet and a profusion of curling, black hair, from which 
a forehead of unusual breadth gleamed forth at intervals 
all light and ivory his were features than which I have 
seen none more classically regular, except perhaps, the 
marble ones of the Emperor Commodus. Yet his 
countenance was, nevertheless, one of those which all 
men have seen at some period of their lives, and have 
never afterwards seen again. It had no peculiar it 
had no settled predominant expression to be fastened 
upon the memory ; a countenance seen and instantly 
forgotten but forgotten with a vague and never- 
ceasing desire of recalling it to mind. Not that the 
spirit of each rapid passion failed, at any time, to throw 
its own distinct image upon the mirror of that face 
but that the mirror, mirror-like, retained no vestige of 
the passion, when the passion had departed. 

Upon leaving him on the night of our adventure, 
1 06 



THE ASSIGNATION 

he solicited me, in what I thought an urgent manner, 
to call upon him very early the next morning. Shortly 
after sunrise, I found myself accordingly at his Palazzo, 
one of those huge structures of gloomy, yet fantastic 
pomp, which tower above the waters of the Grand 
Canal in the vicinity of the Rialto. I was shown up a 
broad winding staircase of mosaics, into an apartment 
whose unparalleled splendour burst through the opening 
door with an actual glare, making me blind and dizzy 
with luxuriousness. 

I knew my acquaintance to be wealthy. Report 
had spoken of his possessions in terms which I had 
even ventured to call terms of ridiculous exaggeration. 
But as I gazed about me, I could not bring myself to 
believe that the wealth of any subject in Europe could 
have supplied the princely magnificence which burned 
and blazed around. 

Although, as I say, the sun had arisen, yet the room 
was still brilliantly lighted up. I judge from this 
circumstance, as well as from an air of exhaustion in 
the countenance of my friend, that he had not retired 
to bed during the whole of the preceding night. In 
the architecture and embellishments of the chamber, 
the evident design had been to dazzle and astound. 
Little attention had been paid to the decora of what is 
technically called keeping^ or to the proprieties of 
nationality. The eye wandered from object to object, 
and rested upon none neither the grotesques of the 
Greek painters, nor the sculptures of the best Italian 
days, nor the huge carvings of untutored Egypt. Rich 
draperies in every part of the room trembled to the 
vibration of low, melancholy music, whose origin was 
not to be discovered. The senses were oppressed by 
mingled and conflicting perfumes, reeking up from 

107 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

strange convolute censers, together with multitudinous 
flaring and flickering tongues of emerald and violet 
fire. The rays of the newly risen sun poured in upon 
the whole, through windows formed each of a single 
pane of crimson-tinted glass. Glancing to and fro, in 
a thousand reflections, from curtains which rolled from 
their cornices like cataracts of molten silver, the beams 
of natural glory mingled at length fitfully with the 
artificial light, and lay weltering in subdued masses 
upon a carpet of rich, liquid-looking cloth of Chili 
gold. 

" Ha ! ha ! ha ! ha ! ha ! ha ! " laughed the 
proprietor, motioning me to a seat as I entered the 
room, and throwing himself back at full length upon 
an ottoman. " I see," said he, perceiving that I could 
not immediately reconcile myself to the bienseance of so 
singular a welcome " I see you are astonished at my 
apartment at my statues my pictures my origi 
nality of conception in architecture and upholstery 
absolutely drunk, eh ? with my magnificence ? But 
pardon me, my dear sir," (here his tone of voice 
dropped to the very spirit of cordiality) " pardon me 
for my uncharitable laughter. You appeared so utterly 
astonished. Besides, some things are so completely 
ludicrous that a man must laugh or die. To die laugh 
ing must be the most glorious of all glorious deaths ! 
Sir Thomas More a very fine man was Sir Thomas 
More Sir Thomas More died laughing, you remember. 
Also in the Absurdities of Ravisius Textor, there 
is a long list of characters who came to the same mag 
nificent end. Do you know, however," continued he 
musingly, " that at Sparta (which is now Palasochori) 
at Sparta, I say, to the west of the citadel, among 
a chaos of scarcely visible ruins, is a kind of socle ^ upon 
108 



THE ASSIGNATION 

which are still legible the letters AA2M. They arc 
undoubtedly part of FEAA2MA. Now at Sparta were 
a thousand temples and shrines to a thousand different 
divinities. How exceedingly strange that the altar of 
Laughter should have survived all the others ! But in 
the present instance," he resumed, with a singular 
alteration of voice and manner, " I have no right to be 
merry at your expense. You might well have been 
amazed. Europe cannot produce anything so fine as 
this, my little regal cabinet. My other apartments 
are by no means of the same order ; mere ultras of 
fashionable insipidity. This is better than fashion is 
it not ? Yet this has but to be seen to become the 
rage that is, with those who could afford it at the cost 
of their entire patrimony. I have guarded, however, 
against any such profanation. With one exception 
you are the only human being besides myself and my 
va/et, who has been admitted within the mysteries of 
these imperial precincts, since they have been bedizened 
as you see ! " 

I bowed in acknowledgment ; for the overpowering 
sense of splendour and perfume, and music, together 
with the unexpected eccentricity of his address and 
manner, prevented me from expressing in words my 
appreciation of what I might have construed into a 
compliment. 

" Here," he resumed, arising and leaning on my 
arm as he sauntered around the apartment " here are 
paintings from the Greeks to Cimabue, and from 
Cimabue to the present hour. Many are chosen, as you 
see, with little deference to the opinions of Virtu. They 
are all,-- however, fitting tapestry for a chamber such as 
this. Here, too, are some chefs d ceuvre of the unknown 
great and here unfinished designs by men, celebrated 

109 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

in their day, whose very names the perspicacity of the 
academies has left to silence and to me. What think 
you," said he, turning abruptly as he spoke " what 
think you of this Madonna della Pieta ? " 

" It is Guide s own ! " I said with all the enthu 
siasm of my nature, for I had been poring intently 
over its surpassing loveliness. " It is Guido s own ! 
how could you have obtained it ? she is undoubtedly in 
painting what the Venus is in sculpture." 

" Ha ! " said he thoughtfully, " the Venus the 
beautiful Venus ? the Venus of the Medici ? she of 
the diminutive head and the gilded hair ? Part of the 
left arm " (here his voice dropped so as to be heard with 
difficulty), " and all the right are restorations, and in 
the coquetry of that right arm lies, I think, the quin 
tessence of all affectation. Give me the Canova ! The 
Apollo, too ! is a copy there can be no doubt of it 
blind fool that I am, who cannot behold the boasted 
inspiration of the Apollo ! I cannot help pity me ! 
I cannot help preferring the Antinous. Was it not 
Socrates who said that the statuary found his statue in 
the block of marble ! Then Michael Angelo was by no 
means original in his couplet : 

" * Non ha 1 ottimo artista alcun concetto 

Che un marmo solo in se non circonscriva. 

It has been, or should be, remarked that, in the 
manner of the true gentleman, we are always aware of 
a difference from the bearing of the vulgar, without 
being at once precisely able to determine in what such 
difference consists. Allowing the remark to have applied 
in its full force to the outward demeanour of my 
acquaintance, I felt it, on that eventful morning, still 
more fully applicable to his moral temperament and 

I 10 



THE ASSIGNATION 

character. Nor can I better define that peculiarity of 
spirit which seemed to place him so essentially apart 
from all other human beings, than by calling it a habit 
of intense and continual thought, pervading even his 
most trivial actions intruding upon his moments of 
dalliance and interweaving itself with his very flashes of 
merriment like adders which writhe from out the eyes 
of the grinning masks in the cornices around the temples 
of Persepolis. 

I could not help, however, repeatedly observing, 
through the mingled tone of levity and solemnity with 
which he rapidly descanted upon matters of little im 
portance, a certain air of trepidation a degree of 
nervous unction in action and in speech an unquiet 
excitability of manner which appeared to me at all 
times unaccountable, and upon some occasions even 
filled me with alarm. Frequently, too, pausing in the 
middle of a sentence whose commencement he had 
apparently forgotten, he seemed to be listening in the 
deepest attention, as if either in momentary expectation 
of a visitor, or to sounds which must have had existence 
in his imagination alone. 

It was during one of these reveries or pauses of 
apparent abstraction, that, in turning over a page of the 
poet and scholar Politian s beautiful tragedy The Orfeo 
(the first native Italian tragedy) which lay near me upon 
an ottoman, I discovered a passage underlined in pencil. 
It was a passage towards the end of the third act a 
passage of the most heart-stirring excitement a passage 
which, although tainted with impurity, no man shall 
read without a thrill of novel emotion no woman 
without a sigh. The whole page was blotted with 
fresh tears, and, upon the opposite interleaf, were the 
following English lines, written in a hand so very 

1 1 1 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

different from the peculiar characters of my acquaintance 
that I had some difficulty in recognising it as his own. 

Thou wast that all to me, love, 

For which my soul did pine 
A green isle in the sea, love, 

A fountain and a shrine, 
All wreathed with fairy fruits and flowers, 

And all the flowers were mine. 

Ah, dream too bright to last ! 

Ah, starry Hope ! that didst arise 
But to be overcast ! 

A voice from out the Future cries, 
" On ! on ! "but o er the Past 

(Dim gulf!) my spirit hovering lies 
Mute, motionless, aghast ! 

For alas ! alas ! with me 

The light of life is o er. 
" No more no more no more " 
(Such language holds the solemn sea 

To the sands upon the shore) 
Shall bloom the thunder-blasted tree, 

Or the stricken eagle soar ! 

Now all my days are trances, 

And all my nightly dreams 
Are where thy gray eye glances, 

And where thy footstep gleams 
In what ethereal dances, 

By what Italian streams. 

Alas ! for that accursed time 

They bore thee o er the billow, 
From Love to titled age and crime, 

And an unholy pillow 
From me, and from our misty clime, 

Where weeps the silver willow ! 

That these lines were written in English a language 
with which I had not believed their author acquainted 
afforded me little matter for surprise. I was too well 
112 



THE ASSIGNATION 

aware of the extent of his acquirements, and of the 
singular pleasure he took in concealing them from 
observation, to be astonished at any similar discovery ; 
but the place of date, I must confess, occasioned me no 
little amazement. It had been originally written 
London^ and afterwards carefully overscored not, how 
ever, so effectually as to conceal the word from a 
scrutinising eye. I say this occasioned me no little 
amazement ; for I well remember that, in a former 
conversation with my friend, I particularly inquired if 
he had at any time met in London the Marchesa di 
Mentoni (who for some years previous to her marriage 
had resided in that city), when his answer, if I mistake 
not, gave me to understand that he had never visited 
the metropolis of Great Britain. I might as well here 
mention that I have more than once heard (without of 
course giving credit to a report involving so many im 
probabilities), that the person of whom I speak was not 
only by birth, but in education, an Englishman. 

*Jv 7|P Tjv TJv 7Jv 

"There is one painting," said he, without being 
aware of my notice of the tragedy " there is still one 
painting which you have not seen." And throwing 
aside a drapery, he discovered a full-length portrait of 
the Marchesa Aphrodite. 

Human art could have done no more in the delinea 
tion of her superhuman beauty. The same ethereal 
figure which stood before me the preceding night upon 
the steps of the Ducal Palace, stood before me once 
again. But in the expression of the countenance, which 
was beaming all over with smiles, there still lurked 
(incomprehensible anomaly !) that fitful strain of melan 
choly which will ever be found inseparable from the 
perfection of the beautiful. Her right arm lay folded 

H 113 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

over her bosom. With her left she pointed downwards 
to a curiously fashioned vase. One small, fairy foot, 
alone visible, barely touched the earth and, scarcely 
discernible in the brilliant atmosphere which seemed 
to encircle and enshrine her loveliness, floated a pair of 
the most delicately imagined wings. My glance fell 
from the painting to the figure of my friend, and the 
vigorous words of Chapman s " Bussy D Ambois " 
quivered instinctively upon my lips : 

" He is up 

There like a Roman statue ! He will stand 
Till Death hath made him marble ! " 

" Come ! " he said at length, turning towards a table 
of richly enamelled and massive silver, upon which were 
a few goblets fantastically stained, together with two 
large Etruscan vases, fashioned in the same extraordinary 
model as that in the foreground of the portrait, and 
filled with what I supposed to be Johannisberger. 
" Come ! " he said abruptly, " let us drink ! It is early 
but let us drink. It is indeed early," he continued, 
musingly, as a cherub with a heavy golden hammer 
made the apartment ring with the first hour after sun 
rise " it is Indeed early, but what matters it ? let us 
drink ! Let us pour out an offering to yon solemn sun 
which these gaudy lamps and censers are so eager to 
subdue ! " And having made me pledge him in a 
bumper, he swallowed in rapid succession several 
goblets of the wine. 

"To dream," he continued, resuming the tone of 
his desultory conversation, as he held up to the rich 
light of a censer one of the magnificent vases " to 
dream has been the business of my life. I have there 
fore framed for myself, as you see, a bower of dreams. 
114 



THE ASSIGNATION 

In the heart of Venice could I have erected a better ? 
You behold around you, it is true, a medley of archi 
tectural embellishments. The chastity of Ionia is 
offended by antediluvian devices, and the sphinxes of 
Egypt are outstretched upon carpets of gold. Yet the 
effect is incongruous to the timid alone. Proprieties 
of place, and especially of time, are the bugbears which 
terrify mankind from the contemplation of the magnifi 
cent. Once I was myself a decorist ; but that sublimation 
of folly has palled upon my soul. All this is now the 
fitter for my purpose. Like these arabesque censers, my 
spirit is writhing in fire, and the delirium of this scene 
is fashioning me for the wilder visions of that land of 
real dreams whither I am now rapidly departing." He 
here paused abruptly, bent his head to his bosom, and 
seemed to listen to a sound which I could not hear. At 
length, erecting his frame, he looked upwards and 
ejaculated the lines of the Bishop of Chichester : 

Stay for me there ! I will not fail 
To meet thee in that hollow vale. 

In the next instant, confessing the power of the 
wine, he threw himself at full length upon an 
ottoman. 

A quick step was now heard upon the staircase, and 
a loud knock at the door rapidly succeeded. I was 
hastening to anticipate a second disturbance, when a 
page of Mentoni s household burst into the room, and 
faltered out, in a voice choking with emotion, the 
incoherent words, " My mistress ! my mistress ! 
poisoned ! poisoned ! Oh beautiful oh beautiful 
Aphrodite ! " 

Bewildered, I flew to the ottoman, and endea 
voured to arouse the sleeper to a sense of the startling 

"5 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

intelligence. But his limbs were rigid his lips were 
livid his lately beaming eyes were riveted in death. 
I staggered back towards the table my hand fell 
upon a cracked and blackened goblet and a con 
sciousness of the entire and terrible truth flashed 
suddenly over my soul. 



116 



LIGEIA 

I CANNOT, for my soul, remember how, when, or 
even precisely where, I first became acquainted 
with the Lady Ligeia. Long years have since 
elapsed, and my memory is feeble through much 
suffering. Or, perhaps, I cannot now bring these points 
to mind, because, in truth, the character of my beloved, 
her rare learning, her singular yet placid cast of beauty, 
and the thrilling and enthralling eloquence of her low, 
musical language, made their way into my heart by 
paces so steadily and stealthily progressive that they 
have been unnoticed and unknown. Yet I believe that 
I met her first and most frequently in some large, old 
decaying city near the Rhine. Of her family I have 
surely heard her speak. That it is of a remotely 
ancient date cannot be doubted. Ligeia ! Ligeia ! 
Buried in studies of a nature more than all else 
adapted to deaden impressions of the outward world, 
it is by that sweet word alone by Ligeia that I bring 
before mine eyes in fancy the image of her who is 
no more. And now, while I write, a recollection 
flashes upon me that I have never known the paternal 
name of her who was my friend and my betrothed, 
and who became the partner of my studies, and 
finally the wife of my bosom. Was it a playful 
charge on the part of my Ligeia ? or was it a test 
of my strength of affection, that I should institute no 
inquiries upon this point ? or was it rather a caprice of 
my own a wildly romantic offering on the shrine of 
the most passionate devotion ? I but indistinctly recall 
the fact itself what wonder that I have utterly for 
gotten the circumstances which originated or attended 
it ? And, indeed, if ever that spirit which is entitled 
Romance if ever she, the wan and misty-winged 

117 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

Ashtophet of idolatrous Egypt, presided, as they tell, 
over marriages ill-omened, then most surely she presided 
over mine. 

There is one dear topic, however, on which my 
memory fails me not. It is the person of Ligeia. In 
stature she was tall, somewhat slender, and, in her latter 
days, even emaciated. I would in vain attempt to por 
tray the majesty, the quiet ease of her demeanour, or 
the incomprehensible lightness and elasticity of her foot 
fall. She came and departed as a shadow. I was never 
made aware of her entrance into my closed study save 
by the dear music of her low sweet voice, as she placed 
her marble hand upon my shoulder. In beauty of face 
no maiden ever equalled her. It was the radiance of an 
opium-dream an airy and spirit-lifting vision more 
wildly divine than the phantasies which hovered about 
the slumbering souls of the daughters of Delos. Yet her 
features were not of that regular mould which we have 
been falsely taught to worship in the classical labours of 
the heathen. " There is no exquisite beauty," says 
Bacon, Lord Verulam, speaking truly of all the forms 
and genera of beauty, " without some strangeness in the 
proportion." Yet, although I saw that the features of 
Ligeia were not of a classic regularity although I per 
ceived that her loveliness was indeed " exquisite," and 
felt that there was much of " strangeness " pervading it, 
yet I have tried in vain to detect the irregularity and to 
trace home my own perception of " the strange." I 
examined the contour of the lofty and pale forehead it 
was faultless how cold indeed that word when applied 
to a majesty so divine ! the skin rivalling the purest 
ivory, the commanding extent and repose, the gentle 
prominence of the regions above the temples ; and then 
the raven-black, the glossy, the luxuriant and naturally- 
118 



LIGEIA 

curling tresses, setting forth the full force of the Homeric 
epithet, " hyacinthine " ! I looked at the delicate out 
lines of the nose and nowhere but in the graceful 
medallions of the Hebrews had I beheld a similar per 
fection. There were the same luxurious smoothness of 
surface, the same scarcely perceptible tendency to the 
aquiline, the same harmoniously-curved nostrils speaking 
the free spirit. I regarded the sweet mouth. Here was 
indeed the triumph of all things heavenly the magni 
ficent turn of the short upper lip the soft, voluptuous 
slumber of the under the dimples which sported, and 
the colour which spoke the teeth glancing back with 
a brilliancy almost startling, every ray of the holy light 
which fell upon them in her serene and placid, yet most 
exultantly radiant of all smiles. I scrutinised the forma 
tion of the chin and here, too, I found the gentleness 
of breadth, the softness and the majesty, the fulness and 
the spirituality of the Greek the contour which the 
god Apollo revealed but in a dream, to Cleomenes, the 
son of the Athenian. And then I peered into the large 
eyes of Ligeia. 

For eyes we have no models in the remotely antique. 
It might have been, too, that in these eyes of my 
beloved lay the secret to which Lord Verulam alludes. 
They were, I must believe, far larger than the ordinary 
eyes of our own race. They were even fuller than the 
fullest of the gazelle eyes of the tribe of the valley of 
Nourjahad. Yet it was only at intervals in moments 
of intense excitement that this peculiarity became 
more than slightly noticeable in Ligeia. And at such 
moments was her beauty in my heated fancy thus it 
appeared perhaps the beauty of beings either above or 
apart from the earth the beauty of the fabulous Houri 
of the Turk. The hue of the orbs was the most 

119 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

brilliant of black, and, far over them, hung jetty lashes of 
great length. The brows, slightly irregular in outline, 
had the same tint. The " strangeness," however, which 
I found in the eyes, was of a nature distinct from the 
formation, or the colour, or the brilliancy of the fea 
tures, and must, after all, be referred to the expression. 
Ah, word of no meaning ! behind whose vast latitude 
of mere sound we intrench our ignorance of so much 
of the spiritual. The expression of the eyes of Ligeia ! 
How for long hours have I pondered upon it ! How 
have I, through the whole of a midsummer night, 
struggled to fathom it ! What was it that something 
more profound than the well of Democritus which 
lay far within the pupils of my beloved ! What was 
it ? I was possessed with a passion to discover. Those 
eyes ! those large, those shining, those divine orbs ! 
they became to me twin stars of Leda, and I to them 
devoutest of astrologers. 

There is no point, among the many incomprehen 
sible anomalies of the science of mind, more thrillingly 
exciting than the fact never, I believe, noticed in the 
schools that, in our endeavours to recall to memory 
something long forgotten, we often find ourselves upon 
the very verge of remembrance, without being able, in 
the end, to remember. And thus how frequently, 
in my intense scrutiny of Ligeia s eyes, have I felt 
approaching the full knowledge of their expression 
felt it approaching yet not quite be mine and so at 
length entirely depart ! And (strange, oh strangest 
mystery of all !) I found, in the commonest objects of 
the universe, a circle of analogies to that expression. 
I mean to say that, subsequently to the period when 
Ligeia s beauty passed into my spirit, there dwelling as 
in a shrine, I derived, from many existences in the 
120 



LIGEIA 

material world, a sentiment such as I felt always 
aroused within me by her large and luminous orbs. 
Yet not the more could I define that sentiment, or 
analyse, or even steadily view it. I recognised it, let 
me repeat, sometimes in the survey of a rapidly-growing 
vine in the contemplation of a moth, a butterfly, a 
chrysalis, a stream of running water. I have felt it in 
the ocean ; in the falling of a meteor. I have felt it in 
the glances of unusually aged people. And there are 
one or two stars in heaven (one especially, a star of 
the sixth magnitude, double and changeable, to be 
found near the large star in Lyra) in a telescopic 
scrutiny of which I have been made aware of the 
feeling. I have been filled with it by certain sounds 
from stringed instruments, and not unfrequently by 
passages from books. Among innumerable other 
instances, I well remember something in a volume of 
Joseph Glanvill, which (perhaps merely from its quaint- 
ness who shall say ?) never failed to inspire me with 
the sentiment " And the will therein lieth, which 
dieth not. Who knoweth the mysteries of the will, 
with its vigour ? For God is but a great will pervad 
ing all things by nature of its intentness. Man doth 
not yield him to the angels, nor unto death utterly, save 
only through the weakness of his feeble will." 

Length of years, and subsequent reflection, have 
enabled me to trace, indeed, some remote connection 
between this passage in the English moralist and a 
portion of the character of Ligeia. An intensity in 
thought, action, or speech, was possibly, in her, a result, 
or at least an index, of that gigantic volition which, 
during our long intercourse, failed to give other 
and more immediate evidence of its existence. Of all 
the women whom I have ever known, she, the out- 

121 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

wardly calm, the ever-placid Ligeia, was the most 
violently a prey to the tumultuous vultures of stern 
passion. And of such passion I could form no estimate, 
save by the miraculous expansion of those eyes which 
at once so delighted and appalled me by the almost 
magical melody, modulation, distinctness, and placidity 
of her very low voice and by the fierce energy (ren 
dered doubly effective by -contrast with her manner of 
utterance) of the wild words which she habitually 
uttered. 

I have spoken of the learning of Ligeia : it was 
immense such as I have never known in woman. In 
the classical tongues was she deeply proficient, and as 
far as my own acquaintance extended in regard to the 
modern dialects of Europe, I have never known her at 
fault. Indeed upon any theme of the most admired, 
because simply the most abstruse of the boasted erudi 
tion of the academy, have I ever found Ligeia at fault ? 
How singularly how thrillingly, this one point in the 
nature of my wife has forced itself, at this late period 
only, upon my attention ! I said her knowledge was 
such as I have never known in woman but where 
breathes the man who has traversed, and successfully, 
all the wide areas of moral, physical, and mathematical 
science ? I saw not then what I now clearly perceive, 
that the acquisitions of Ligeia were gigantic, were 
astounding ; yet I was sufficiently aware of her infinite 
supremacy to resign myself, with a childlike confidence, 
to her guidance through the chaotic world of meta 
physical investigation at which I was most busily 
occupied during the earlier years of our marriage. 
With how vast a triumph with how vivid a delight 
with how much of all that is ethereal in hope did I 
feel, as she bent over me in studies but little sought 

122 



LIGEIA 

but less known that delicious vista by slow degrees 
expanding before me, down whose long, gorgeous, and 
all untrodden path, I might at length pass onward to 
the goal of a wisdom too divinely precious not to be 
forbidden ! 

How poignant, then, must have been the grief with 
which, after some years, I beheld my well-grounded 
expectations take wings to themselves and fly away ! 
Without Ligeia I was but as a child groping benighted. 
Her presence, her readings alone, rendered vividly 
luminous the many mysteries of the transcendentalism 
in which we were immersed. Wanting the radiant 
lustre of her eyes, letters, lambent and golden, grew 
duller than Saturnian lead. And now those eyes shone 
less and less frequently upon the pages over which I 
pored. Ligeia grew ill. The wild eyes blazed with a 
too-too glorious effulgence ; the pale ringers became 
of the transparent waxen hue of the grave, and the 
blue veins upon the lofty forehead swelled and sank 
impetuously with the tides of the most gentle emotion. 
I saw that she must die and I struggled desperately 
in spirit with the grim Azrael. And the struggles of 
the passionate wife were, to my astonishment, even 
more energetic than my own. There had been much 
in her stern nature to impress me with the belief that, 
to her, death would have come without its terrors ; 
but not so. Words are impotent to convey any just 
idea of the fierceness of resistance with which she 
wrestled with the Shadow. I groaned in anguish at 
the pitiable spectacle. I would have soothed I would 
have reasoned ; but, in the intensity of her wild desire 
for life, for life but for life solace and reason were 
alike the uttermost of folly. Yet not until the last 
instance, amid the most convulsive writhings of her 

123 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

fierce spirit, was shaken the external placidity of her 
demeanour. Her voice grew more gentle grew more 
low yet I would not wish to dwell upon the wild 
meaning of the quietly uttered words. My brain reeled 
as I hearkened entranced to a melody more than mortal 
to assumptions and aspirations which mortality had 
never before known. 

That she loved me I should not have doubted ; and 
I might have been easily aware that, in a bosom such 
as hers, love would have reigned no ordinary passion. 
But in death only was I fully impressed with the 
strength of her affection. For long hours, detaining 
my hand, would she pour out before me the overflow 
ing of a heart whose more than passionate devotion 
amounted to idolatry. How had I deserved to be so 
blessed by such confessions ! how had I deserved to 
be so cursed with the removal of my beloved in the 
hour of her making them ! But upon this subject I 
cannot bear to dilate. Let me say only, that in Ligeia s 
more than womanly abandonment to a love, alas ! all 
unmerited, all unworthily bestowed, I at length recog 
nised the principle of her longing with so wildly earnest 
a desire for the life which was now fleeing so rapidly 
away. It is this wild longing it is this eager vehe 
mence of desire for life but for life that I have no 
power to portray no utterance capable of expressing. 

At high noon of the night in which she departed, 
beckoning me, peremptorily, to her side, she bade me 
repeat certain verses composed by herself not many 
days before. I obeyed her. They were these : 

Lo ! tis a gala night 

Within the lonesome latter years ! 
An angel throng, bewinged, bedight 

In veils, and drowned in tears, 
124 



LIGEIA 

Sit in a theatre, to see 

A play of hopes and fears, 
While the orchestra breathes fitfully 

The music of the spheres. 

Mimes, in the form of God on high, 

Mutter and mumble low, 
And hither and thither fly; 

Mere puppets they, who come and go 
At bidding of vast formless things 

That shift the scenery to and fro, 
Flapping from out their Condor wings 

Invisible Woe ! 

That motley drama ! oh, be sure 

It shall not be forgot ! 
With its Phantom chased for evermore, 

By a crowd that seize it not, 
Through a circle that ever returneth in 

To the self-same spot, 
And much of Madness and more of Sin 

And Horror the soul of the plot. 

But see, amid the mimic rout, 

A crawling shape intrude ! 
A blood-red thing that writhes from out 

The scenic solitude ! 
It writhes ! it writhes ! with mortal pangs 

The mimes become its food, 
And the seraphs sob at vermin fangs 

In human gore imbued. 

Out out are the lights out all ! 

And over each quivering form, 
The curtain, a funeral pall, 

Comes down with the rush of a storm, 
And the angels, all pallid and wan, 

Uprising, unveiling, affirm 
That the play is the tragedy, " Man," 

And its hero the Conqueror Worm. 

"O God ! " half shrieked Ligeia, leaping to her feet 
and extending her arms aloft with a spasmodic move 
ment, as I made an end of these lines " O God ! O 

125 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

Divine Father ! shall these things be undeviatingly 
so ? shall this Conqueror be not once conquered ? Are 
we not part and parcel in Thee ? Who who knoweth 
the mysteries of the will with its vigour ? Man doth 
not yield him to the angels, nor unto death utterly^ save 
only through the weakness of his feeble will." 

And now, as if exhausted with emotion, she suffered 
her white arms to fall, and returned solemnly to her 
bed of death. And as she breathed her last sighs, there 
came mingled with them a low murmur from her lips. 
I bent to them my ear and distinguished, again, the 
concluding words of the passage in Glanvill " Man 
doth not yield him to the angels^ nor unto death utterly^ save 
only through the weakness of his feeble will" 

She died ; and I, crushed into the very dust with 
sorrow, could no longer endure the lonely desolation of 
my dwelling in the dim and decaying city by the Rhine. 
I had no lack of what the world calls wealth. Ligeia 
had brought me far more, very far more than ordinarily 
falls to the lot of mortals. After a few months, there 
fore, of weary and aimless wandering, I purchased, and 
put in some repair, an abbey, which I shall not name, 
in one of the wildest and least frequented portions 
of fair England. The gloomy and dreary grandeur of 
the building, the almost savage aspect of the domain, 
the many melancholy and time-honoured memories 
connected with both, had much in unison with the 
feelings of utter abandonment which had driven me into 
that remote and unsocial region of the country. Yet 
although the external abbey, with its verdant decay 
hanging about it, suffered but little alteration, I gave 
way, with a child-like perversity, and perchance with a 
faint hope of alleviating my sorrows, to a display of 
more than regal magnificence within. For such follies, 
126 



LIGEIA 

even in childhood, I had imbibed a taste, and now they 
came back to me as if in the dotage of grief. Alas, I 
feel how much even of incipient madness might have 
been discovered in the gorgeous and fantastic draperies, 
in the solemn carvings of Egypt, in the wild cornices 
and furniture, in the Bedlam patterns of the carpets of 
tufted gold ! I had become a bounden slave in the 
trammels of opium, and my labours and my orders had 
taken a colouring from my dreams. But these absurdi 
ties I must not pause to detail. Let me speak only of 
that one chamber, ever accursed, whither in a moment 
of mental alienation, I led from the altar as my bride 
as the successor of the unforgotten Ligeia the fair- 
haired and blue-eyed Lady Rowena Trevanion, of 
Tremaine. 

There is no individual portion of the architecture 
and decoration of that bridal chamber which is not now 
visibly before me. Where were the souls of the haughty 
family of the bride, when, through thirst of gold, they 
permitted to pass the threshold of an apartment so be 
decked, a maiden and a daughter so beloved ? I have said 
that I minutely remember the details of the chamber 
yet I am sadly forgetful on topics of deep moment and 
here there was no system, no keeping, in the fantastic 
display, to take hold upon the memory. The room lay 
in a high turret of the castellated abbey, was pentagonal 
in shape, and of capacious size. Occupying the whole 
southern face of the pentagon was the sole window an 
immense sheet of unbroken glass from Venice a single 
pane, and tinted of a leaden hue, so that the rays of either 
the sun or moon, passing through it, fell with a ghastly 
lustre on the objects within. Over the upper portion of 
this huge window, extended the trellis-work of an aged 
vine, which clambered up the massy walls of the turret. 

127 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

The ceiling, of gloomy-looking oak, was excessively 
lofty, vaulted, and elaborately fretted with the wildest 
and most grotesque specimens of a semi-Gothic, semi- 
Druidical device. From out the most central recess of 
this melancholy vaulting, depended, by a single chain of 
gold with long links, a huge censer of the same metal, 
Saracenic in pattern, and with many perforations so con 
trived that there writhed in and out of them, as if endued 
with a serpent vitality, a continual succession of parti 
coloured fires. 

Some few ottomans and golden candelabra, of Eastern 
figure, were in various stations about and there was the 
couch, too the bridal couch of an Indian model, and 
low, and sculptured of solid ebony, with a pall-like 
canopy above. In each of the angles of the chamber 
stood on end a gigantic sarcophagus of black granite, 
from the tombs of the kings over against Luxor, with 
their aged lids full of immemorial sculpture. But in the 
draping of the apartment lay, alas ! the chief phantasy 
of all. The lofty walls, gigantic in height even unpro- 
portionably so were hung from summit to foot, in vast 
folds, with a heavy and massive-looking tapestry 
tapestry of a material which was found alike as a carpet 
on the floor, as a covering for the ottomans and the 
ebony bed, as a canopy for the bed, and as the gorgeous 
volutes of the curtains which partially shaded the win 
dow. The material was the richest cloth of gold. It 
was spotted all over, at irregular intervals, with arabesque 
figures, about a foot in diameter, and wrought upon the 
cloth in patterns of the most jetty black. But these 
figures partook of the true character of the arabesque 
only when regarded from a single point of view. By a 
contrivance now common, and indeed traceable to a very 
remote period of antiquity, they were made changeable 
128 



LIGEIA 

in aspect. To one entering the room, they bore the 
appearance of simple monstrosities ; but upon a farther 
advance, this appearance gradually departed ; and step 
by step, as the visitor moved his station in the chamber, 
he saw himself surrounded by an endless succession of 
ghastly forms which belong to the superstition of the 
Norman, or arise in the guilty slumbers of the monk. 
The phantasmagoric effect was vastly heightened by the 
artificial introduction of a strong continual current of 
wind behind the draperies giving a hideous and uneasy 
animation to the whole. 

In halls such as these in a bridal chamber such as 
this I passed, with the Lady of Tremaine, the unhal 
lowed hours of the first month of our marriage passed 
them with but little disquietude. That my wife dreaded 
the fierce moodiness of my temper that she shunned 
me and loved me but little I could not help per 
ceiving ; but it gave me rather pleasure than otherwise. 
I loathed her with a hatred belonging more to demon 
than to man. My memory flew back (oh, with what 
intensity of regret !) to Ligeia, the beloved, the august, 
the beautiful, the entombed. I revelled in recollections 
of her purity, of her wisdom, of her lofty, her ethereal 
nature, of her passionate, her idolatrous love. Now, 
then, did my spirit fully and freely burn with more than 
all the fires of her own. In the excitement of my opium 
dreams (for I was habitually fettered in the shackles of 
the drug) I would call aloud upon her name, during the 
silence of the night, or among the sheltered recesses of 
the glens by day, as if, through the wild eagerness, the 
solemn passion, the consuming ardour of my longing for 
the departed, I could restore her to the pathway she had 
abandoned ah, could it be forever ? upon the earth. 

About the commencement of the second month of 

i 129 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

the marriage, the Lady Rowena was attacked with 
sudden illness, from which her recovery was slow. The 
fever which consumed her rendered her nights uneasy ; 
and in her perturbed state of half-slumber, she spoke of 
sounds, and of motions, in and about the chamber of the 
turret, which I concluded had no origin save in the dis 
temper of her fancy, or perhaps in the phantasmagoric 
influences of the chamber itself. She became at length 
convalescent finally well. Yet but a brief period 
elapsed, ere a second more violent disorder again threw 
her upon a bed of suffering; and from this attack her 
frame, at all times feeble, never altogether recovered. 
Her illnesses were, after this epoch, of alarming character, 
and of more alarming recurrence, defying alike the know 
ledge and the great exertions of her physicians. With 
the increase of the chronic disease which had thus, 
apparently, taken too sure hold upon her constitution to 
be eradicated by human means, I could not fail to observe 
a similar increase in the nervous irritation of her tem 
perament, and in her excitability by trivial causes of 
fear. She spoke again, and now more frequently and 
pertinaciously, of the sounds of the slight sounds and 
of the unusual motions among the tapestries, to which 
she had formerly alluded. 

One night, near the closing in of September, she 
pressed this distressing subject with more than usual 
emphasis upon my attention. She had just awakened 
from an unquiet slumber, and I had been watching, 
with feelings half of anxiety, half of vague terror, the 
workings of her emaciated countenance. I sat by the 
side of her ebony bed, upon one of the ottomans of India. 
She partly arose, and spoke, in an earnest low whisper, 
of sounds which she then heard, but which I could not 
hear of motions which she then saw, but which I 
130 



LIGEIA 

could not perceive. The wind was rushing hurriedly 
behind the tapestries, and I wished to show her (what, 
let me confess it, I could not all believe) that those 
almost inarticulate breathings, and those very gentle 
variations of the figures upon the wall, were but the 
natural effects of that customary rushing of the wind. 
But a deadly pallor, overspreading her face, had proved 
to me that my exertions to reassure her would be 
fruitless. She appeared to be fainting, and no attendants 
were within call. I remembered where was deposited 
a decanter of light wine which had been ordered by her 
physicians, and hastened across the chamber to procure 
it. But, as I stepped beneath the light of the censer, 
two circumstances of a startling nature attracted my 
attention. I had felt that some palpable although 
invisible object had passed lightly by my person ; and 
I saw that there lay upon the golden carpet, in the very 
middle of the rich lustre thrown from the censer, a 
shadow a faint, indefinite shadow of angelic aspect 
such as might be fancied for a shadow of a shade. But 
I was wild with the excitement of an immoderate dose 
of opium, and heeded these things but little, nor spoke 
of them to Rowena. Having found the wine, I re- 
crossed the chamber, and poured out a gobletful, which 
I held to the lips of the fainting lady. She had now 
partially recovered, however, and took the vessel herself, 
while I sank upon an ottoman near me, with my eyes 
fastened upon her person. It was then that I became 
distinctly aware of a gentle footfall upon the carpet, 
and near the couch, and in a second thereafter, as 
Rowena was in the act of raising the wine to her lips, 
I saw, or may have dreamed that I saw, fall within the 
goblet, as if from some invisible spring in the atmo 
sphere of the room, three or four large drops of a 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

brilliant and ruby-coloured fluid. If this I saw not 
so Rowena. She swallowed the wine unhesitatingly, 
and I forbore to speak to her of a circumstance which 
must, after all, I considered, have been but the sugges 
tion of a vivid imagination, rendered morbidly active 
by the terror of the lady, by the opium, and by the 
hour. 

Yet I cannot conceal it from my own perception 
that, immediately subsequent to the fall of the ruby 
drops, a rapid change for the worse took place in the 
disorder of my wife ; so that on the third subsequent 
night, the hands of her menials prepared her for the 
tomb, and on the fourth, I sat alone, with her shrouded 
body, in that fantastic chamber which had received her 
as my bride. Wild visions, opium-engendered, flitted, 
shadow-like, before me. I gazed with unquiet eye upon 
the sarcophagi in the angles of the room, upon the 
varying figures of the drapery, and upon the writhing 
of the parti-coloured fires in the censer overhead. My 
eyes then fell, as I called to mind the circumstances of 
a former night, to the spot beneath the glare of the 
censer where I had seen the faint traces of the shadow. 
It was there, however, no longer ; and breathing with 
greater freedom, I turned my glances to the pallid and 
rigid figure upon the bed. Then rushed upon me a 
thousand memories of Ligeia and then came back 
upon my heart, with the turbulent violence of a flood, 
the whole of that unutterable woe with which I had 
regarded her thus enshrouded. The night waned ; and 
still, with a bosom full of bitter thoughts of the one 
only and supremely beloved, I remained gazing upon 
the body of Rowena. 

It might have been midnight, or perhaps earlier, or 
later, for I had taken no note of time, when a sob, low, 
132 



LIGEIA 

gentle, but very distinct, startled me from my reverie. 
\felt that it came from the bed of ebony the bed ot 
death. I listened in an agony of superstitious terror 
but there was no repetition of the sound. I strained 
my vision to detect any motion in the corpse but 
there was not the slightest perceptible. Yet I could 
not have been deceived. I had heard the noise, how 
ever faint, and my soul was awakened within me. I 
resolutely and perseveringly kept my attention riveted 
upon the body. Many minutes elapsed before any cir 
cumstances occurred tending to throw light upon the 
mystery. At length it became evident that a slight, a 
very feeble, and barely noticeable tinge of colour had 
flushed up within the cheeks, and along the sunken 
small veins of the eyelids. Through a species of un 
utterable horror and awe, for which the language of 
mortality has no sufficiently energetic expression, I feL 
my heart cease to beat, my limbs grow rigid where I 
sat. Yet a sense of duty finally operated to restore my 
self-possession. I could no longer doubt that we had 
been precipitate in our preparations that Rowena still 
lived. It was necessary that some immediate exertion 
be made ; yet the turret was altogether apart from the 
portion of the abbey tenanted by the servants there 
were none within call I had no means of summoning 
them to my aid without leaving the room for many 
minutes and this I could not venture to do. I there 
fore struggled alone in my endeavours to call back the 
spirit still hovering. In a short period it was certain, 
however, that a relapse had taken place ; the colour 
disappeared from both eyelid and cheek, leaving a wan 
ness even more than that of marble ; the lips became 
doubly shrivelled and pinched up in the ghastly expres 
sion of death ; a repulsive clamminess and coldness 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

overspread rapidly the surface of the body ; and all the 
usual rigorous stiffness immediately supervened. I fell 
back with a shudder upon the couch from which I had 
been so startlingly aroused, and again gave myself up 
to passionate waking visions of Ligeia. 

An hour thus elapsed when (could it be possible ?) 
I was a second time aware of some vague sound issuing 
from the region of the bed. I listened in extremity 
of horror. The sound came again it was a sigh. 
Rushing to the corpse, I saw distinctly saw a tremor 
upon the lips. In a minute afterwards they relaxed, 
disclosing a bright line of the pearly teeth. Amazement 
now struggled in my bosom with the profound awe 
which had hitherto reigned there alone. I felt that my 
vision grew dim, that my reason wandered ; and it was 
only by a violent effort that I at length succeeded in 
nerving myself to the task which duty thus once more 
had pointed out. There was now a partial glow upon 
the forehead and upon the cheek and throat ; a per 
ceptible warmth pervaded the whole frame ; there was 
even a slight pulsation at the heart. The lady lived ; 
and with redoubled ardour I betook myself to the task 
of restoration. I chafed and bathed the temples and 
the hands, and used every exertion which experience, 
and no little medical reading, could suggest. But in 
vain. Suddenly, the colour fled, the pulsation ceased, 
the lips resumed the expression of the dead, and, in an 
instant afterwards, the whole body took upon itself the 
icy chilliness, the livid hue, the intense rigidity, the 
sunken outline, and all the loathsome peculiarities of 
that which has been, for many days, a tenant of the 
tomb. 

And again I sunk into visions of Ligeia and again 
(what marvel that I shudder while I write ?) again there 
34 



LIGEIA 

reached my ears a low sob from the region of the ebony 
bed. But why shall I minutely detail the unspeakable 
horrors of that night ? Why shall I pause to relate 
how, time after time, until near the period of the grey 
dawn, this hideous drama of revivification was repeated ; 
how each terrific relapse was only into a sterner and 
apparently more irredeemable death ; how each agony 
wore the aspect of a struggle with some invisible foe ; 
and how each struggle was succeeded by I know not 
what of wild change in the personal appearance of the 
corpse ? Let me hurry to a conclusion. 

The greater part of the fearful night had worn 
away, and she who had been dead, once again stirred 
and now more vigorously than hitherto, although 
arousing from a dissolution more appalling in its utter 
hopelessness than any. I had long ceased to struggle 
or to move, and remained sitting rigidly upon the 
ottoman, a helpless prey to a whirl of violent emotions, 
of which extreme awe was perhaps the least terrible, 
the least consuming. The corpse, I repeat, stirred, 
and now more vigorously than before. The hues of 
life flushed up with unwonted energy into the counte 
nance the limbs relaxed and, save that the eyelids 
were yet pressed heavily together, and that the bandages 
and draperies of the grave still imparted their charnel 
character to the figure, I might have dreamed that 
Rowena had indeed shaken off, utterly, the fetters of 
Death. But if this idea was not, even then, altogether 
adopted, I could at least doubt no longer, when arising 
from the bed, tottering, with feeble steps, with closed 
eyes, and with the manner of one bewildered in a dream, 
the thing that was enshrouded advanced boldly and 
palpably into the middle of the apartment. 

I trembled not I stirred not for a crowd of unutter- 

35 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

able fancies connected with the air, the stature, the 
demeanour of the figure, rushing hurriedly through my 
brain, had paralysed had chilled me into stone. I 
stirred not but gazed upon the apparition. There was 
a mad disorder in my thoughts a tumult unappeasable. 
Could it, indeed, be the living Rowena who confronted 
me ? Could it indeed be Rowena at all the fair-haired, 
the blue-eyed Lady Rowena Trevanion of Tremaine ? 
Why, why should I doubt it ! The bandage lay heavily 
about the mouth but then might it not be the mouth 
of the breathing Lady of Tremaine ? And the cheeks 
there were the roses as in her noon of life yes, these 
might indeed be the fair cheeks of the living Lady of 
Tremaine. And the chin, with its dimples, as in health, 
might it not be hers ? but had she then grown taller since 
her malady ? What inexpressible madness seized me 
with that thought ? One bound, and I had reached her 
feet ! Shrinking from my touch, she let fall from her 
head, unloosened, the ghastly cerements which had con 
fined it, and there streamed forth, into the rushing atmo 
sphere of the chamber, huge masses of long and dishevelled 
hair ; // was blacker than the raven wings of the midnight ! 
And now slowly opened the eyes of the figure which stood 
before me. " Here then, at least," I shrieked aloud, 
"can I never can I never be mistaken these are the full, 
and the black, and the wild eyes of my lost love of 
the lady of the LADY LIGEIA." 



136 



ELEONORA 

I AM come of a race noted for vigour of fancy and 
ardour of passion. Men have called me mad ; 
but the question is not yet settled, whether 
madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence 
whether much that is glorious whether all that 
is profound does not spring from disease of thought 
from moods of mind exalted at the expense ot 
the general intellect. They who dream by day are 
cognisant of many things which escape those who dream 
only by night. In their grey visions they obtain glimpses 
of eternity, and thrill, in awaking, to find that they have 
been upon the verge of the great secret. In snatches, 
they learn something of the wisdom which is of good, 
and more of the mere knowledge which is of evil. 
They penetrate, however rudderless or compassless, into 
the vast ocean of the " light ineffable " and again, like 
the adventurers of the Nubian geographer, " aggressi 
sunt mare tenebrarum^ quid in eo esset exploraturi" 

We will say, then, that I am mad. I grant, at least 
that there are two distinct conditions of my mental 
existence the condition of a lucid reason, not to be 
disputed, and belonging to the memory of events form 
ing the first epoch of my life and a condition of shadow 
and doubt, appertaining to the present, and to the recol 
lection of what constitutes the second great era of my 
being. Therefore, what I shall tell of the earlier period, 
believe ; and to what I may relate of the later time, 
give only such credit as may seem due ; or doubt it 
altogether ; or, if doubt it ye cannot, then play unto its 
riddle the CEdipus. 

She whom I loved in youth, and of whom I now 
pen calmly and distinctly these remembrances, was the 
sole daughter of the only sister of my mother long 

37 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

departed. Eleonora was the name of my cousin. We 
had always dwelled together, beneath a tropical sun, in 
the Valley of the Many-Coloured Grass. No unguided 
footstep ever came upon that vale ; for it lay far away 
up among a range of giant hills that hung beetling 
around about it, shutting out the sunlight from its 
sweetest recesses. No path was trodden in its vicinity ; 
and, to reach our happy home, there was need of putting 
back, with force, the foliage of many thousands of forest 
trees, and of crushing to death the glories of manymillions 
of fragrant flowers. Thus it was that we lived all alone, 
knowing nothing of the world without the valley I, 
and my cousin, and her mother. 

From the dim regions beyond the mountains at the 
upper end of our encircled domain, there crept out a 
narrow and deep river, brighter than all save the eyes of 
Eleonora ; and, winding stealthily about in mazy courses 
it passed away, at length, through a shadowy gorge, 
among hills still dimmer than those whence it had issued. 
We called it the " River of Silence " ; for there seemed 
to be a hushing influence in its flow. No murmur arose 
from its bed, and so gently it wandered along, that the 
pearly pebbles upon which we loved to gaze, far down 
within its bosom, stirred not at all, but lay in a motion 
less content, each in its own old station, shining on 
gloriously for ever. 

The margin of the river, and of the many dazzling 
rivulets that glided, through devious ways, into its 
channel, as well as the spaces that extended from the 
margins away down into the depths of the streams until 
they reached the bed of pebbles at the bottom these 
spots, not less than the whole surface of the valley, 
from the river to the mountains that girdled it in, were 
carpeted all by a soft green grass, thick, short, perfectly 

138 



ELEONORA 

even, and vanilla-perfumed, but so besprinkled through 
out with the yellow buttercup, the white daisy, the 
purple violet, and the ruby-red asphodel, that its 
exceeding beauty spoke to our hearts, in loud tones, 
of the love and of the glory of God. 

And here and there, in groves about this grass, like 
wildernesses of dreams, sprang up fantastic trees, whose 
tall slender stems stood not upright, but slanted grace 
fully towards the light that peered at noon-day into 
the centre of the valley. Their bark was speckled 
with the vivid alternate splendour of ebony and silver, 
and was smoother than all save the cheeks of Eleonora ; 
so that but for the brilliant green of the huge leaves 
that spread from their summits in long tremulous lines, 
dallying with the Zephyrs, one might have fancied 
them giant serpents of Syria doing homage to their 
Sovereign the Sun. 

Hand in hand about this valley, for fifteen years, 
roamed I with Eleonora before Love entered within 
our hearts. It was one evening at the close of the 
third lustrum of her life, and of the fourth of my 
own, that we sat, locked in each other s embrace, 
beneath the serpent-like trees, and looked down within 
the waters of the River of Silence at our images 
therein. We spoke no words during the rest of 
that sweet day ; and our words even upon the 
morrow were tremulous and few. We had drawn the 
god Eros from that wave, and now we felt that he had 
enkindled within us the fiery souls of our forefathers. 
The passions which had for centuries distinguished our 
race, came thronging with the fancies for which they 
had been equally noted, and together breathed a 
delirious bliss over the Valley of the Many-Coloured 
Grass. A change fell upon all things. Strange brilliant 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

flowers, star-shaped, burst out upon the trees where no 
flowers had been known before. The tints of the green 
carpet deepened ; and when, one by one, the white 
daisies shrank away, there sprang up, in place of them, 
ten by ten of the ruby-red asphodel. And life arose 
in our paths ; for the tall flamingo, hitherto unseen, 
with all gay glowing birds, flaunted his scarlet plumage 
before us. The golden and silver fish haunted the 
river, out of the bosom of which issued, little by little, 
a murmur that swelled, at length, into a lulling melody 
more divine than that of the harp of ^Eolus sweeter 
than all save the voice of Eleonora. And now, too, a 
voluminous cloud, which we had long watched in the 
regions of Hesper, floated out thence, all gorgeous in 
crimson and gold, and settling in peace above us, sank, 
day by day, lower and lower, until its edges rested 
upon the tops of the mountains, turning all their dim 
ness into magnificence, and shutting us up, as if for ever, 
within a magic prison-house of grandeur and of glory. 

The loveliness of Eleonora was that of the Seraphim ; 
but she was a maiden artless and innocent as the brief 
life she had led among the flowers. No guile disguised 
the fervour of love which animated her heart, and she 
examined with me its inmost recesses as we walked 
together in the Valley of the Many-Coloured Grass, 
and discoursed of the mighty changes which had lately 
taken place therein. 

At length, having spoken one day, in tears, of the 
last sad change which must befall Humanity, she 
thenceforward dwelt only upon this one sorrowful 
theme, interweaving it into all our converse, as, in the 
songs of the bard of Schiraz, the same images are 
found occurring, again and again, in every impressive 
variation of phrase. 
140 




#0 1 ! 




p , 



mtt.*mm 

Ss-,^1 *tyv 




ELEONORA 

She had seen that the finger of Death was upon her 
bosom that, like the ephemeron, she had been made 
perfect in loveliness only to die ; but the terrors of the 
grave, to her, lay solely in a consideration which she 
revealed to me, one evening at twilight, by the banks 
of the River of Silence. She grieved to think that, 
having entombed her in the Valley of the Many- 
Coloured Grass, I would quit for ever its happy 
recesses, transferring the love which now was so pas 
sionately her own to some maiden of the outer and 
every-day world. And, then and there, I threw myself 
hurriedly at the feet of Eleonora, and offered up a vow, 
to herself and Heaven, that I would never bind myself 
in marriage to any daughter of Earth that I would in 
no manner prove recreant to her dear memory, or to 
the memory of the devout affection with which she 
had blessed me. And I called the Mighty Ruler of 
the Universe to witness the pious solemnity of my 
vow. And the curse which I invoked of Him and of 
her, a saint in Helusion, should I prove traitorous to 
that promise, involved a penalty the exceeding great 
horror of which will not permit me to make record of 
it here. And the bright eyes of Eleonora grew brighter 
at my words ; and she sighed as if a deadly burthen 
had been taken from her breast ; and she trembled and 
very bitterly wept ; but she made acceptance of the 
vow (for what was she but a child ?), and it made easy 
to her the bed of her death. And she said to me, not 
many days afterwards, tranquilly dying, that, because of 
what I had done for the comfort of her spirit, she 
would watch over me in that spirit when departed, 
and, if so it were permitted her, return to me visibly in 
the watches of the night ; but, if this thing were, 
indeed, beyond the power of the souls in Paradise, that 

141 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

she would, at least, give me frequent indications of 
her presence ; sighing upon me in the evening winds, 
or filling the air which I breathed with perfume from 
the censers of the angels. And, with these words upon 
her lips, she yielded up her innocent life, putting an 
end to the first epoch of my own. 

Thus far I have faithfully said. But as I pass the 
barrier in Time s path formed by the death of my 
beloved, and proceed with the second era of my 
existence, I feel that a shadow gathers over my brain, 
and I mistrust the perfect sanity of the record. But let 
me on. Years dragged themselves along heavily, and 
still I dwelled within the Valley of the Many-Coloured 
Grass ; but a second change had come upon all things. 
The star-shaped flowers shrank into the stems of the 
trees, and appeared no more. The tints of the green 
carpet faded ; and, one by one, the ruby-red asphodels 
withered away ; and there sprang up in place of them, 
ten by ten, dark eye-like violets that writhed uneasily 
and were ever encumbered with dew. And Life de 
parted from our paths ; for the tall flamingo flaunted no 
longer his scarlet plumage before us, but flew sadly 
from the vale into the hills, with all the gay glowing 
birds that had arrived in his company. And the golden 
and silver fish swam down through the gorge at the 
lower end of our domain and bedecked the sweet river 
never again. And the lulling melody that had been 
softer than the wind-harp of ^Eolus and more divine 
than all save the voice of Eleonora, it died little by little 
away, in murmurs growing lower and lower, until the 
stream returned at length utterly into the solemnity of 
its original silence. And then, lastly, the voluminous 
cloud uprose, and, abandoning the tops of the mountains 
to the dimness of old, fell back into the regions of 
142 



ELEONORA 

Hesper, and took away all its manifold golden and 
gorgeous glories from the Valley of the Many-Coloured 
Grass. 

Yet the promises of Eleonora were not forgotten, 
for I heard the sounds of the swinging of the censers of 
the angels ; and streams of a holy perfume floated ever 
and ever about the valley ; and at lone hours, when my 
heart beat heavily, the winds that bathed my brow 
came unto me laden with soft sighs, and indistinct 
murmurs filled often the night air ; and once oh, but 
once only ! I was awakened from a slumber like the 
slumber of death by the pressing of spiritual lips upon 
my own. 

But the void within my heart refused, even thus, to 
be filled. I longed for the love which had before filled 
it to overflowing. At length the valley pained me 
through its memories of Eleonora, and I left it for ever 
for the vanities and the turbulent triumphs of the 
world. 

IP >p 4t v >P 

I found myself within a strange city, where all 
things might have served to blot from recollection the 
sweet dreams I had dreamed so long in the Valley of 
the Many-Coloured Grass. The pomps and pageantries 
of a stately court, and the mad clangour of arms, and 
the radiant loveliness of woman, bewildered and in 
toxicated my brain. But as yet my soul had proved 
true to its vows, and the indications of the presence of 
Eleonora were still given me in the silent hours of the 
night. Suddenly these manifestations they ceased ; and 
the world grew dark before mine eyes ; and I stood 
aghast at the burning thoughts which possessed at the 
terrible temptations which beset me ; for there came 
from some far, far distant and unknown land, into the 

H3 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

gay court of the king I served, a maiden to whose 
beauty my whole recreant heart yielded at once at 
whose footstool I bowed down without a struggle, in the 
most ardent, in the most abject worship of love. What 
indeed was my passion for the young girl of the valley 
in comparison with the fervour, and the delirium, and 
the spirit-lifting ecstasy of adoration with which I 
poured out my whole soul in tears at the feet of the 
ethereal Ermengarde ? Oh, bright was the seraph 
Ermengarde ! and in that knowledge I had room for 
none other. Oh, divine was the angel Ermengarde ! 
and as I looked down into the depths of her memorial 
eyes I thought only of them and of her. 

I wedded nor dreaded the curse I had invoked ; and 
its bitterness was not visited upon me. And once but 
once again in the silence of the night, there came 
through my lattice the soft sighs which had forsaken 
me ; and they modelled themselves into familiar and 
sweet voice, saying : 

" Sleep in peace ! for the Spirit of Love reigneth 
and ruleth, and, in taking to thy passionate heart her 
who is Ermengarde, thou art absolved, for reasons 
which shall be made known to thee in Heaven, of thy 
vows unto Eleonora. 



144 



THE MASQUE OF THE 
RED DEATH 



I 



"Red Death" had long devastated the 
country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, 
or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its 
seal the redness and horror of blood. There 
were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse 
bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet 
stains upon the body, and especially upon the face of the 
victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from the 
aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the 
whole seizure, progress, and termination of the disease, 
were the incidents of half an hour. 

But the Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless and 
sagacious. When his dominions were half depopulated, 
he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light- 
hearted friends from among the knights and dames of 
his court, and with these retired to the deep seclusion 
of one of his castellated abbeys. This was an extensive 
and magnificent structure, the creation of the prince s 
own eccentric yet august taste. A strong and lofty 
wall girdled it in. This wall had gates of iron. The 
courtiers, having entered, brought furnaces and massy 
hammers and welded the bolts. They resolved to leave 
means neither of ingress nor egress to the sudden im 
pulses of despair or of frenzy from within. The abbey 
was amply provisioned. With such precautions the 
courtiers might bid defiance to contagion. The external 
world could take care of itself. In the meantime it 
was folly to grieve, or to think. The prince had pro 
vided all the appliances of pleasure. There were 
buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet- 
dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there 

K 145 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

was wine. All these and security were within. With 
out was the " Red Death." 

It was toward the close of the fifth or sixth month 
of his seclusion, and while the pestilence raged most 
furiously abroad, that the Prince Prospero entertained 
his thousand friends at a masked ball of the most unusual 
magnificence. 

It was a voluptuous scene, that masquerade. But 
first let me tell of the rooms in which it was held. 
These were seven an imperial suite. In many palaces, 
however, such suites form a long and straight vista, 
while the folding doors slide back nearly to the walls on 
either hand, so that the view of the whole extent is 
scarcely impeded. Here the case was very different, as 
might have been expected from the duke s love of the 
bizarre. The apartments were so irregularly disposed that 
the vision embraced but little more than one at a time. 
There was a sharp turn at every twenty or thirty yards, 
and at each turn a novel effect. To the right and left, 
in the middle of each wall, a tall and narrow Gothic 
window looked out upon a closed corridor which pur 
sued the windings of the suite. These windows were 
of stained glass, whose colour varied in accordance with 
the prevailing hue of the decorations of the chamber 
into which it opened. That at the eastern extremity 
was hung, for example, in blue and vividly blue were 
its windows. The second chamber was purple in its 
ornaments and tapestries, and here the panes were purple. 
The third was green throughout, and so were the case 
ments. The fourth was furnished and lighted with 
orange the fifth with white the sixth with violet. 
The seventh apartment was closely shrouded in black 
velvet tapestries that hung all over the ceiling and 
down the walls, falling in heavy folds upon a carpet of 
146 



THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH 

the same material and hue. But in this chamber only 
the colour of the windows failed to correspond with the 
decorations. The panes here were scarlet a deep blood 
colour. Now in no one of the seven apartments was 
there any lamp or candelabrum, amid the profusion of 
golden ornaments that lay scattered to and fro or de 
pended from the roof. There was no light of any kind 
emanating from lamp or candle within the suite of 
chambers. But in the corridors that followed the suite 
there stood, opposite to each window, a heavy tripod 
bearing a brazier of fire, that projected its rays through 
the tinted glass and so glaringly illumined the room. 
And thus were produced a multitude of gaudy and 
fantastic appearances. But in the western or black 
chamber the effect of the fire-light that streamed upon 
the dark hangings through the blood-tinted panes was 
ghastly in the extreme, and produced so wild a look 
upon the countenances of those who entered, that there 
were few of the company bold enough to set foot within 
its precincts at all. 

It was in this apartment, also, that there stood 
against the western wall, a gigantic clock of ebony. 
Its pendulum swung to and fro with a dull, heavy, 
monotonous clang ; and when the minute-hand made 
the circuit of the face, and the hour was to be stricken, 
there came from the brazen lungs of the clock a sound 
which was clear and loud and deep and exceedingly 
musical, but of so peculiar a note and emphasis that, at 
each lapse of an hour, the musicians of the orchestra 
were constrained to pause, momentarily, in their per 
formance, to harken to the sound ; and thus the waltzers 
perforce ceased their evolutions ; and there was a brief 
disconcert of the whole gay company ; and, while the 
chimes of the clock yet rang, it was observed that the 

H7 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

giddiest grew pale, and the more aged and sedate passed 
their hands over their brows as if in confused reverie or 
meditation. But when the echoes had fully ceased, a 
light laughter at once pervaded the assembly ; the 
musicians looked at each other and smiled as if at 
their own nervousness and folly, and made whispering 
vows, each to the other, that the next chiming of the 
clock should produce in them no similar emotion ; and 
then, after the lapse of sixty minutes (which embrace 
three thousand and six hundred seconds of the Time 
that flies), there came yet another chiming of the clock, 
and then were the same disconcert and tremulousness 
and meditation as before. 

But, in spite of these things, it was a gay and 
magnificent revel. The tastes of the duke were peculiar. 
He had a fine eye for colours and effects. He disre 
garded the decora of mere fashion. His plans were 
bold and fiery, and his conceptions glowed with barbaric 
lustre. There are some who would have thought him 
mad. His followers felt that he was not. It was necessary 
to hear and see and touch him to be sure that he was not. 

He had directed, in great part, the movable em 
bellishments of the seven chambers, upon occasion of 
this greaty?fc ; and it was his own guiding taste which 
had given character to the masqueraders. Be sure they 
were grotesque. There were much glare and glitter 
and piquancy and phantasm much of what has been 
since seen in Hernani. There were arabesque figures 
with unsuited limbs and appointments. There were 
delirious fancies such as the madman fashions. There 
were much of the beautiful, much of the wanton, much 
of the bizarre^ something of the terrible, and not a little 
of that which might have excited disgust. To and fro 
in the seven chambers there stalked, in fact, a multitude 
148 



THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH 

of dreams. And these the dreams writhed in and 
about, taking hue from the rooms, and causing the wild 
music of the orchestra to seem as the echo of their 
steps. And, anon, there strikes the ebony clock which 
stands in the hall of the velvet. And then, for a 
moment, all is still, and all is silent save the voice of the 
clock. The dreams are stiff-frozen as they stand. But 
the echoes of the chime die away they have endured 
but an instant and a light, half-subdued laughter floats 
after them as they depart. And now again the music 
swells, and the dreams live, and writhe to and fro more 
merrily than ever, taking hue from the many-tinted 
windows through which stream the rays from the 
tripods. But to the chamber which lies most west- 
wardly of the seven there are now none of the maskers 
who venture ; for the night is waning away ; and 
there flows a ruddier light through the blood-coloured 
panes ; and the blackness of the sable drapery appals ; 
and to him whose foot falls upon the sable carpet, there 
comes from the near clock of ebony a muffled peal more 
solemnly emphatic than any which reaches their ears 
who indulged in the more remote gaieties of the other 
apartments. 

But these other apartments were densely crowded, 
and in them beat feverishly the heart of life. And the 
revel went whirlingly on, until at length there com 
menced the sounding of midnight upon the clock. 
And then the music ceased, as I have told ; and the 
evolutions of the waltzers were quieted ; and there was 
an uneasy cessation of all things as before. But now 
there were twelve strokes to be sounded by the bell of 
the clock ; and thus it happened, perhaps, that more 
of thought crept, with more of time, into the medita 
tions of the thoughtful among those who revelled. 

149 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

And thus too, it happened, perhaps, that before the last 
echoes of the last chime had utterly sunk into silence, 
there were many individuals in the crowd who had 
found leisure to become aware of the presence of a 
masked figure which had arrested the attention of no 
single individual before. And the rumour of this new 
presence having spread itself whisperingly around, there 
arose at length from the whole company a buzz, or 
murmur, expressive of disapprobation and surprise 
then, finally, of terror, of horror, and of disgust. 

In an assembly of phantasms such as I have painted, 
it may well be supposed that no ordinary appearance 
could have excited much sensation. In truth the mas 
querade license of the night was nearly unlimited ; but 
the figure in question had out-Heroded Herod, and 
gone beyond the bounds of even the prince s indefinite 
decorum. There are chords in the hearts of the most 
reckless which cannot be touched without emotion. 
Even with the utterly lost, to whom life and death are 
equally jests, there are matters of which no jest can be 
made. The whole company, indeed, seemed now deeply 
to feel that in the costume and bearing of the stranger 
neither wit nor propriety existed. The figure was tall 
and gaunt, and shrouded from head to foot in the habili 
ments of the grave. The mask which concealed the visage 
was made so nearly to resemble the countenance of a 
stiffened corpse that the closest scrutiny must have had 
difficulty in detecting the cheat. And yet all this might 
have been endured, if not approved, by the mad revellers 
around. But the mummer had gone so far as to assume 
the type of the Red Death. His vesture was dabbled in 
blood and his broad brow, with all the features of the 
face, was sprinkled with the scarlet horror. 

When the eyes of Prince Prospero fell upon this 
150 



THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH 

spectral image (which, with a slow and solemn move 
ment, as if more fully to sustain its role^ stalked to and 
fro among the waltzers) he was seen to be convulsed in 
the first moment with a strong shudder either of terror 
or distaste ; but, in the next, his brow reddened with 
rage. 

" Who dares," he demanded hoarsely of the 
courtiers who stood near him " who dares insult us 
with this blasphemous mockery ? Seize him and un 
mask him that we may know whom we have to hang, 
at sunrise, from the battlements ! " 

In was in the eastern or blue chamber in which 
stood the Prince Prospero as he uttered these words. 
They rang throughout the seven rooms loudly and 
clearly, for the prince was a bold and robust man, and 
the music had become hushed at the waving of his 
hand. 

It was in the blue room where stood the prince, with 
a group of pale courtiers by his side. At first, as he 
spoke, there was a slight rushing movement of this 
group in the direction of the intruder, who at the 
moment was also near at hand, and now, with deliberate 
and stately step, made closer approach to the speaker. 
But from a certain nameless awe with which the mad 
assumptions of the mummer had inspired the whole 
party, there were found none who put forth hand to 
seize him ; so that, unimpeded, he passed within a yard 
of the prince s person ; and while the vast assembly, as 
if with one impulse, shrank from the centres of the rooms 
to the walls, he made his way uninterruptedly, but with 
the same solemn and measured step which had distin 
guished him from the first, through the blue chamber 
to the purple through the purple to the green through 
the green to the orange through this again to the white 

5 1 



and even thence to the violet, ere a decided movement 
had been made to arrest him. It was then, however, 
that the Prince Prospero, maddening with rage and the 
shame of his own momentary cowardice, rushed hur 
riedly through the six chambers, while none followed 
him on account of a deadly terror that had seized upon 
all. He bore aloft a drawn dagger, and had approached 
in rapid impetuosity, to within three or four feet of the 
retreating figure, when the latter, having attained the 
extremity of the velvet apartment, turned suddenly and 
confronted his pursuer. There was a sharp cry and 
the dagger dropped gleaming upon the sable carpet, 
upon which, instantly afterward, fell prostrate in death 
the Prince Prospero. Then, summoning the wild 
courage of despair, a throng of the revellers at once 
threw themselves into the black apartment, and, seizing 
the mummer, whose tall figure stood erect and motion 
less within the shadow of the ebony clock, gasped in 
unutterable horror at finding the grave cerements and 
corpse-like mask, which they handled with so violent a 
rudeness, untenanted by any tangible form. 

And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red 
Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And 
one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed 
halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing 
posture of his fall. And the life of the ebony clock 
went out with that of the last of the gay. And the 
flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and 
Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion 
over all. 



152 



I 



THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO 

thousand injuries of Fortunate I had borne 
as I best could, but when he ventured upon 
insult, I vowed revenge. You, who so 
well know the nature of my soul, will not 
suppose, however, that I gave utterance to a threat. 
At length I would be avenged ; this was a point defi 
nitely settled but the very definiteness with which it 
was resolved precluded the idea of risk. I must not 
only punish but punish with impunity. A wrong is 
unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. 
It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make 
himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong. 

It must be understood that neither by word nor 
deed had I given Fortunato cause to doubt my good 
will. I continued, as was my wont, to smile in his 
face, and he did not perceive that my smile now was at 
the thought of his immolation. 

He had a weak point this Fortunato although in 
other regards he was a man to be respected and even 
feared. He prided himself on his connoisseurship in 
wine. Few Italians have the true virtuoso spirit. For 
the most part their enthusiasm is adopted to suit the 
time and opportunity, to practise imposture upon the 
British and Austrian millionaires. In painting and gem- 
mary, Fortunato, like his countrymen, was a quack, 
but in the matter of old wines he was sincere. In this 
respect I did not differ from him materially ; I was 
skilful in the Italian vintages myself, and bought largely 
whenever I could. 

It was about dusk, one evening during the supreme 
madness of the carnival season, that I encountered my 
friend. He accosted me with excessive warmth, for 
he had been drinking much. The man wore motley. 

S3 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

He had on a tight-fitting parti-striped dress, and his 
head was surmounted by the conical cap and bells. I 
was so pleased to see him that I thought I should never 
have done wringing his hand. 

I said to him " My dear Fortunato, you are luckily 
met. How remarkably well you are looking to-day. 
But I have received a pipe of what passes for Amontil 
lado, and I have my doubts." 

" How ? " said he. " Amontillado ? A pipe ? 
Impossible ! And in the middle of the carnival ! " 

" I have my doubts," I replied ; " and I was silly 
enough to pay the full Amontillado price without con 
sulting you in the matter. You were not to be found, 
and 1 was fearful of losing a bargain." 

" Amontillado ! " 

" I have my doubts." 

" Amontillado ! " 

"And I must satisfy them." 

" Amontillado ! " 

" As you are engaged, I am on my way to Luchresi. 
If any one has a critical turn it is he. He will tell 
me " 

" Luchresi cannot tell Amontillado from Sherry." 

" And yet some fools will have it that his taste is a 
match for your own." 

" Come, let us go." 

" Whither ? " 

"To your vaults." 

" My friend, no ; I will not impose upon your 
good nature. I perceive you have an engagement. 
Luchresi " 

" I have no engagement come." 

" My friend, no. It is not the engagement, but the 
severe cold with which I perceive you are afflicted. 

54 



THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO 

The vaults are insufferably damp. They are encrusted 
with nitre." 

" Let us go, nevertheless. The cold is merely 
nothing. Amontillado ! You have been imposed upon. 
And as for Luchresi, he cannot distinguish Sherry from 
Amontillado." 

Thus speaking, Fortunato possessed himself of my 
arm ; and putting on a mask of black silk and drawing 
a roquelaure closely about my person, I suffered him to 
hurry me to my palazzo. 

There were no attendants at home ; they had 
absconded to make merry in honour of the time. I 
had told them that I should not return until the morn 
ing, and had given them explicit orders not to stir from 
the house. These orders were sufficient, I well knew, 
to insure their immediate disappearance, one and all, as 
soon as my back was turned. 

I took from their sconces two flambeaux, and giving 
one to Fortunato, bowed him through several suites of 
rooms to the archway that led into the vaults. I passed 
down a long and winding staircase, requesting him to 
be cautious as he followed. We came at length to the 
foot of the descent, and stood together upon the damp 
ground of the catacombs of the Montresors. 

The gait of my friend was unsteady, and the bells 
upon his cap jingled as he strode. 

"The pipe," he said. 

" It is farther on," said I ; " but observe the white 
web-work which gleams from these cavern walls." 

He turned towards me, and looked into my eyes with 
two filmy orbs that distilled the rheum of intoxication. 

" Nitre ? " he asked, at length. 

" Nitre," I replied. " How long have you had that 
cough ? " 

55 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

" Ugh ! ugh ! ugh ! ugh ! ugh ! ugh ! ugh ! 
ugh ! ugh ! ugh ! ugh ! ugh ! ugh ! ugh ! ugh ! " 

My poor friend found it impossible to reply for many 
minutes. 

" It is nothing," he said at last. 

" Come," I said, with decision, " we will go back ; 
your health is precious. You are rich, respected, 
admired, beloved ; you are happy, as once I was. 
You are a man to be missed. For me it is no matter. 
We will go back ; you will be ill, and I cannot be 
responsible. Besides, there is Luchresi " 

" Enough," he said ; " the cough is a mere nothing ; 
it will not kill me. I shall not die of a cough." 

"True true," I replied; "and, indeed, I had no 
intention of alarming you unnecessarily but you should 
use all proper caution. A draught of this Medoc will 
defend us from the damps." 

Here I knocked off the neck of a bottle which I 
drew from a long row of its fellows that lay upon the 
mould. 

" Drink," I said, presenting him the wine. 

He raised it to his lips with a leer. He paused and 
nodded to me familiarly, while his bells jingled. 

" I drink," he said, " to the buried that repose 
around us." 

"And I to your long life." 

He again took my arm, and we proceeded. 

"These vaults," he said, " are extensive." 

"The Montresors," I replied, "were a great and 
numerous family." 

" I forget your arms." 

" A huge human foot d or, in a field azure ; the 
foot crushes a serpent rampant whose fangs are imbedded 
in the heel." 

56 



THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO 

" And the motto ? " 

" Nemo me impune I aces sit" 

" Good ! " he said. 

The wine sparkled in his eyes and the bells jingled. 
My own fancy grew warm with the Medoc. We had 
passed through long walls of piled skeletons, with casks 
and puncheons intermingling, into the inmost recesses 
of catacombs. I paused again, and this time I made 
bold to seize Fortunato by an arm above the 
elbow. 

" The nitre ! " I said ; " see, it increases. It hangs 
like moss upon the vaults. We are below the river s 
bed. The drops of moisture trickle among the bones. 
Come, we will go back ere it is too late. Your 
cough " 

" It is nothing," he said ; " let us go on. But 
first, another draught of the Medoc." 

I broke and reached him a flagon of De Grave. He 
emptied it at a breath. His eyes flashed with a fierce 
light. He laughed and threw the bottle upwards with 
a gesticulation I did not understand. 

I looked at him in surprise. He repeated the 
movement a grotesque one. 

" You do not comprehend ? " he said. 

" Not I," I replied. 

" Then you are not of the brotherhood." 

" How ? " 

" You are not of the masons." 

" Yes, yes," I said ; " yes, yes." 

" You ? Impossible ! A mason ? " 

" A mason," I replied. 

" A sign," he said, " a sign." 

" It is this," I answered, producing from beneath the 
folds of my roquelaure a trowel. 

57 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

" You jest," he exclaimed, recoiling a few paces. 
" But let us proceed to the Amontillado." 

" Be it so," I said, replacing the tool beneath the 
cloak and again offering my arm. He leaned upon it 
heavily. We continued our route in search of the 
Amontillado. We passed through a range of low 
arches, descended, passed on, and descending again, 
arrived at a deep crypt, in which the foulness of the air 
caused our flambeaux rather to glow than flame. 

At the most remote end of the crypt there appeared 
another less spacious. Its walls had been lined with 
human remains, piled to the vault overhead, in the 
fashion of the great catacombs of Paris. Three sides 
of this interior crypt were still ornamented in this 
manner. From the fourth side the bones had been 
thrown down, and lay promiscuously upon the earth, 
forming at one point a mound of some size. Within 
the wall thus exposed by the displacing of the bones, 
we perceived a still interior crypt or recess, in depth 
about four feet, in width three, in height six or seven. 
It seemed to have been constructed for no especial use 
within itself, but formed merely the interval between 
two of the colossal supports of the roof of the cata 
combs, and was backed by one of their circumscribing 
walls of solid granite. 

It was in vain that Fortunato, uplifting his dull 
torch, endeavoured to pry into the depth of the recess. 
Its termination the feeble light did not enable us to 
see. 

"Proceed," I said; " herein is the Amontillado. As 
for Luchresi " 

" He is an ignoramus," interrupted my friend, as he 
stepped unsteadily forward, while I followed imme 
diately at his heels. In an instant he had reached the 



THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO 

extremity of the niche, and finding his progress arrested 
by the rock, stood stupidly bewildered. A moment 
more and I had fettered him to the granite. In its 
surface were two iron staples, distant from each other 
about two feet, horizontally. From one of these de 
pended a short chain, from the other a padlock. Throw 
ing the links about his waist, it was but the work of a 
few seconds to secure it. He was too much astounded 
to resist. Withdrawing the key I stepped back from 
the recess. 

" Pass your hand," I said, " over the wall ; you can 
not help feeling the nitre. Indeed, it is very damp. 
Once more let me implore you to return. No ? Then 
I must positively leave you. But I must first render you 
all the little attentions in my power." 

" The Amontillado ! " ejaculated my friend, not yet 
recovered from his astonishment. 

" True," I replied ; " the Amontillado." 

As I said these words I busied myself among the 
pile of bones of which I have before spoken. Throwing 
them aside, I soon uncovered a quantity of building 
stone and mortar. With these materials and with the 
aid of my trowel, I began vigorously to wall up the 
entrance of the niche. 

I had scarcely laid the first tier of the masonry when 
I discovered that the intoxication of Fortunato had in 
a great measure worn ofF. The earliest indication I had 
of this was a low moaning cry from the depth of the 
recess. It was not the cry of a drunken man. There 
was then a long and obstinate silence. I laid the second 
tier, and the third, and the fourth ; and then I heard 
the furious vibrations of the chain. The noise lasted 
for several minutes, during which, that I might hearken 
to it with the more satisfaction, I ceased my labours and 

59 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

sat down upon the bones. When at last the clanking 
subsided, I resumed the trowel, and finished without 
interruption the fifth, the sixth, and the seventh tier. 
The wall was now nearly upon a level with my breast. I 
again paused, and holding the flambeaux over the 
mason-work, threw a few feeble rays upon the figure 
within. 

A succession of loud and shrill screams, bursting 
suddenly from the throat of the chained form, seemed 
to thrust me violently back. For a brief moment I 
hesitated, I trembled. Unsheathing my rapier, I began 
to grope with it about the recess ; but the thought of 
an instant reassured me. I placed my hand upon the 
solid fabric of the catacombs, and felt satisfied. I re- 
approached the wall ; I replied to the yells of him who 
clamoured. I re-echoed, I aided, I surpassed them in 
volume and in strength. I did this, and the clamourer 
grew still. 

It was now midnight, and my task was drawing to 
a close. I had completed the eighth, the ninth, and 
the tenth tier. I had finished a portion of the last and 
the eleventh ; there remained but a single stone to be 
fitted and plastered in. I struggled with its weight ; I 
placed it partially in its destined position. But now 
there came from out the niche a low laugh that erected 
the hairs upon my head. It was succeeded by a sad 
voice, which I had difficulty in recognising as that of 
the noble Fortunato. The voice said : 

" Ha ! ha ! ha ! he ! he ! he ! a very good joke, 
indeed an excellent jest. We shall have many a rich 
laugh about it at the palazzo he ! he ! he ! over our 
wine he ! he ! he ! " 

" The Amontillado ! " I said. 

" He ! he ! he ! he ! he ! he ! yes, the Amon- 
160 



THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO 

tillado. But is it not getting late ? Will not they be 
awaiting us at the palazzo, the Lady Fortunato and the 
rest ? Let us be gone." 

" Yes," I said, " let us be gone." 

" For the love of God^ Montresor ! " 

" Yes," I said, for the love of God ! " 

But to these words I hearkened in vain for a reply. 
I grew impatient. I called aloud : 

" Fortunato ! " 

No answer. I called again : 

" Fortunato ! " 

No answer still. I thrust a torch through the 
remaining aperture and let it fall within. There came 
forth in return only a jingling of the bells. My heart 
grew sick ; it was the dampness of the catacombs that 
made it so. I hastened to make an end of my labour. 
I forced the last stone into its position ; I plastered it 
up. Against the new masonry I re-erected the old 
rampart of bones. For the half of a century no mortal 
has disturbed them. In pace requiescat ! 



161 



H 



METZENGERSTEIN 

ORROR and fatality have been stalking 
abroad in all ages. Why then give a date 
to the story I have to tell ? Let it suffice to 
say, that at the period of which I speak, 
there existed, in the interior of Hungary, a settled 
although hidden belief in the doctrines of the Metem 
psychosis. Of the doctrines themselves that is, of their 
falsity, or of their probability I say nothing. I assert, 
however, that much of our incredulity (as La Bruyere 
says of all our unhappiness) "inentde nepouvoir etre seuls"* 

But there were some points in the Hungarian super 
stition which were fast verging to absurdity. They 
the Hungarians differed very essentially from their 
Eastern authorities. For example. "The soul" said the 
former I give the words of an acute and intelligent 
Parisian "tie demeure qrfune settle fois dans un corps sen 
sible : au reste un cAeva/, un chien^ un homme meme, n est 
que la ressemblance peu tangible de ces animaux." 

The families at Berlifitzing and Metzengerstein had 
been at variance for centuries. Never before were two 
houses, so illustrious, mutually embittered by hostility 
so deadly. The origin of this enmity seems to be found 
in the words of an ancient prophecy " A lofty name 
shall have a fearful fall when, as the rider over his horse, 
the mortality of Metzengerstein shall triumph over the 
immortality of Berlifitzing." 

To be sure, the words themselves had little or no 
meaning. But more trivial causes have given rise and 
that no long while ago to consequences equally eventful. 

* Mercier, in "UAn deux nnlle quatre cents quarante" seriously maintains 
the doctrines of the Metempsychosis, and J. D Israeli says that " no system is 
so simple and so little repugnant to the understanding." Colonel Ethan Allen, 
the " Green Mountain Boy," is also said to have been a serious metempsy- 
chosist. 

163 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

Besides, the estates, which were contiguous, had long 
exercised a rival influence in the affairs of a busy govern 
ment. Moreover, near neighbours are seldom friends ; 
and the inhabitants of the Castle Berlifitzing might look 
from their lofty buttresses, into the very windows of the 
Palace Metzengerstein. Least of all had the more than 
feudal magnificence, thus discovered, a tendency to allay 
the irritable feelings of the less ancient and less wealthy 
Berlifitzing. What wonder, then, that the words, how 
ever silly, of that prediction, should have succeeded in 
setting and keeping at variance two families already pre 
disposed to quarrel by every instigation of hereditary 
jealousy. The prophecy seemed to imply if it implied 
anything a final triumph on the part of the already 
more powerful house ; and was of course remembered 
with the more bitter animosity by the weaker and less 
influential. 

Wilhelm, Count Berlifitzing, although loftily de 
scended, was, at the epoch of this narrative, an infirm 
and doting old man, remarkable for nothing but an in 
ordinate and inveterate personal antipathy to the family 
of his rival, and so passionate a love of horses, and of 
hunting, that neither bodily infirmity, great age, nor 
mental incapacity, prevented his daily participation in 
the dangers of the chase. 

Frederick, Baron Metzengerstein, was, on the other 

hand, not yet of age. His father, the Minister G , 

died young. His mother, the Lady Mary, followed him 
quickly. Frederick was, at that time, in his eighteenth 
year. In a city, eighteen years are no long period ; but 
in a wilderness in so magnificent a wilderness as that 
old principality, the pendulum vibrates with a deeper 
meaning. 

From some peculiar circumstances attending the 
164 



METZENGERSTEIN 

administration of his father, the young Baron, at the 
decease of the former, entered immediately upon his 
vast possessions. Such estates were seldom held before 
by a nobleman of Hungary. His castles were without 
number. The chief in point of splendour and extent 
was the " Palace Metzengerstein." The boundary line 
of his dominions was never clearly defined ; but his 
principal park embraced a circuit of fifty miles. 

Upon the succession of a proprietor so young, with 
a character so well known, to a fortune so unparalleled, 
little speculation was afloat in regard to his probable 
course of conduct. And, indeed, for the space of three 
days, the behaviour of the heir out-Heroded Herod, and 
fairly surpassed the expectations of his most enthusiastic 
admirers. Shameful debaucheries flagrant treacheries 
unheard-of atrocities gave his trembling vassals 
quickly to understand that no servile submission on their 
part no punctilios of conscience on his own were 
thenceforward to prove any security against the remorse 
less fangs of a petty Caligula. On the night of the fourth 
day, the stables of the Castle Berlifitzing were dis 
covered to be on fire ; and the unanimous opinion of the 
neighbourhood added the crime of the incendiary to the 
already hideous list of the Baron s misdemeanours and 
enormities. 

But during the tumult occasioned by this occurrence, 
the young nobleman himself sat apparently buried in 
meditation, in a vast and desolate upper apartment of 
the family palace of Metzengerstein. The rich although 
faded tapestry hangings which swung gloomily upon 
the walls represented the shadowy and majestic forms 
of a thousand illustrious ancestors. Here, rich-ermined 
priests and pontifical dignitaries, familiarly seated with 
the autocrat and the sovereign, put a veto on the wishes 

-65 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

of a temporal king, or restrained with the fiat of papal 
supremacy the rebellious sceptre of the Arch-enemy. 
There > the dark, tall statues of the Princes Metzenger- 
stein their muscular war-coursers plunging over the 
carcasses of fallen foes startled the steadiest nerves 
with their vigorous expression ; and here, again, the 
voluptuous and swan-like figures of the dames of days 
gone by floated away in the mazes of an unreal dance 
to the strains of imaginary melody. 

But as the Baron listened, or affected to listen, to the 
gradually increasing uproar in the stables of Berlifitzing 
or perhaps pondered upon some more novel, some 
more decided act of audacity his eyes were turned 
unwittingly to the figure of an enormous, and unnatu 
rally coloured horse, represented, in the tapestry as 
belonging to a Saracen ancestor of the family of his 
rival. The horse itself, in the foreground of the design, 
stood motionless and statue-like while, farther back, 
its discomfited rider perished by the dagger of a Met- 
zengerstein. 

On Frederick s lip arose a fiendish expression, as he 
became aware of the direction which his glance had, 
without his consciousness, assumed. Yet he did not 
remove it. On the contrary, he could by no means 
account for the overwhelming anxiety which appeared 
falling like a pall upon his senses. It was with difficulty 
that he reconciled his dreamy and incoherent feelings 
with the certainty of being awake. The longer he 
gazed the more absorbing became the spell the 
more impossible did it appear that he could ever 
withdraw his glance from the fascination of that 
tapestry. But the tumult without becoming suddenly 
more violent, with a compulsory exertion he diverted 
his attention to the glare of ruddy light thrown full 
166 



METZENGERSTEIN 

by the flaming stables upon the windows of the 
apartment. 

The action, however, was but momentary ; his gaze 
returned mechanically to the wall. To his extreme 
horror and astonishment, the head of the gigantic steed 
had, in the meantime, altered its position. The neck 
of the animal before arched, as if in compassion, over 
the prostrate body of its lord, was now extended at full 
length, in the direction of the Baron. The eyes, before 
invisible, now wore an energetic and human expression, 
while they gleamed with a fiery and unusual red ; and 
the distended lips of the apparently enraged horse left in 
full view his sepulchral and disgusting teeth. 

Stupefied with terror, the young nobleman tottered 
to the door. As he threw it open, a flash of red light, 
streaming far into the chamber, flung his shadow with 
a clear outline against the quivering tapestry ; and he 
shuddered to perceive that shadow as he staggered 
awhile upon the threshold assuming the exact position 
and precisely filling up the contour, of the relentless 
and triumphant murderer of the Saracen Berlifitzing. 

To lighten the depression of his spirits, the Baron 
hurried into the open air. At the principal gate of the 
palace he encountered three equerries. With much 
difficulty, and at the imminent peril of their lives, they 
were restraining the convulsive plunges of a gigantic 
and fiery-coloured horse. 

" Whose horse ? Where did you get him ? " 
demanded the youth, in a querulous and husky tone, 
as he became instantly aware that the mysterious steed 
in the tapestried chamber was the very counterpart of 
the furious animal before his eyes. 

" He is your own property, sire," replied one of the 
equerries, " at least he is claimed by no other owner. 

167 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

We caught him flying, all smoking and foaming with 
rage, from the burning stables of the Castle Berlifitzing. 
Supposing him to have belonged to the old Count s stud 
of foreign horses, we led him back as an estray. But 
the grooms there disclaim any title to the creature ; 
which is strange, since he bears evident marks of having 
made a narrow escape from the flames." 

"The letters W. V. B. are also branded very dis 
tinctly on his forehead," interrupted a second equerry ; 
"I supposed them, of course, to be the initials of William 
Von Berlifitzing but all at the castle are positive in 
denying any knowledge of the horse." 

" Extremely singular ! " said the young Baron, with 
a musing air, and apparently unconscious of the mean 
ing of his words. " He is, as you say, a remarkable 
horse a prodigious horse ! although, as you very justly 
observe, of a suspicious and untractable character ; let 
him be mine, however," he added, after a pause, " per 
haps a rider like Frederick of Metzengerstein may 
tame even the devil from the stables of Berlifitzing." 

" You are mistaken, my lord ; the horse, as I think 
we mentioned, is not from the stables of the Count. If 
such had been the case, we know our duty better than 
to bring him into the presence of a noble of your 
family." 

" True ! " observed the Baron drily ; and at that 
instant a page of the bedchamber came from the palace 
with a heightened colour and a precipitate step. He 
whispered into his master s ear an account of the 
sudden disappearance of a small portion of the tapestry, 
in an apartment which he designated ; entering, at 
the same time, into particulars of a minute and 
circumstantial character ; but from the low tone 
of voice in which these latter were communicated, 
168 



METZENGERSTEIN 

nothing escaped to gratify the excited curiosity of the 
equerries. 

The young Frederick, during the conference, seemed 
agitated by a variety of emotions. He soon, however, 
recovered his composure, and an expression of deter 
mined malignancy settled upon his countenance, as he 
gave peremptory orders that the apartment in question 
should be immediately locked up, and the key placed 
in his own possession. 

" Have you heard of the unhappy death of the old 
hunter, Berlifitzing ? " said one of his vassals to the 
Baron, as, after the departure of the page, the huge 
steed which that nobleman had adopted as his own, 
plunged and curveted with redoubled fury, down the 
long avenue which extended from the palace to the 
stables of Metzengerstein. 

" No ! " said the Baron, turning abruptly toward the 
speaker, " dead ! say you ? " 

" It is indeed true, my lord ; and, to the noble of 
your name, will be, I imagine, no unwelcome intelli 
gence." 

A rapid smile shot over the countenance of the 
listener. " How died he ? " 

" In his rash exertions to rescue a favourite portion 
of the hunting stud, he has himself perished miserably 
in the flames." 

" I n d e e d ! " ejaculated the Baron, as 
if slowly and deliberately impressed with the truth of 
some exciting idea. 

" Indeed ; " repeated the vassal. 

" Shocking ! " said the youth, calmly, and turned 
quietly into the palace. 

From this date a marked alteration took place in 
the outward demeanour of the dissolute young Baron 

169 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

Frederick Von Metzengerstein. Indeed, his behaviour 
disappointed every expectation, and proved little in 
accordance with the views of many a manoeuvring 
mamma ; while his habits and manner, still less than 
formerly, offered anything congenial with those of the 
neighbouring aristocracy. He was never to be seen 
beyond the limits of his own domain, and in his wide 
and social world, was utterly companionless unless, 
indeed, that unnatural, impetuous, and fiery-coloured 
horse, which he henceforward continually bestrode, 
had any mysterious right to the title of his friend. 

Numerous invitations on the part of the neighbour 
hood for a long time, however, periodically came in. 
" Will the Baron honour our festival with his presence ?" 
" Will the Baron join us in a hunting of the boar ? " 
" Metzengerstein does not hunt ; " " Metzenger 
stein will not attend," were the haughty and laconic 
answers. 

These repeated insults were not to be endured by an 
imperious nobility. Such invitations became less cor 
dial less frequent in time they ceased altogether. 
The widow of the unfortunate Count Berlifitzing was 
even heard to express a hope " that the Baron might be 
at home when he did not wish to be at home, since he 
disdained the company of his equals ; and ride when he 
did not wish to ride, since he preferred the society of a 
horse." This, to be sure, was a very silly explosion of 
hereditary pique ; and merely proved how singularly 
unmeaning our sayings are apt to become, when we 
desire to be unusually energetic. 

The charitable, nevertheless, attributed the alteration 
in the conduct of the young nobleman to the natural 
sorrow of a son for the untimely loss of his parents ; 
forgetting, however, his atrocious and reckless behaviour 
170 



METZENGERSTEIN 

during the short period immediately succeeding that 
bereavement. Some there were, indeed, who suggested 
a too haughty idea of self-consequence and dignity. 
Others again (among whom may be mentioned the 
family physician) did not hesitate in speaking of morbid 
melancholy, and hereditary ill-health ; while dark hints, 
of a more equivocal nature, were current among the 
multitude. 

Indeed, the Baron s perverse attachment to his lately 
acquired charger an attachment which seemed to attain 
new strength from every fresh example of the animal s 
ferocious and demon-likepropensities at length became, 
in the eyes of all reasonable men, a hideous and unnatural 
fervour. In the glare of noon at the dead hour of 
night in sickness or in health in calm or in tempest 
the young Metzengerstein seemed riveted to the 
saddle of that colossal horse, whose intractable audacities 
so well accorded with his own spirit. 

There were circumstances, moreover, which, coupled 
with late events, gave an unearthly and portentous 
character to the mania of the rider, and to the capabili 
ties of the steed. The space passed over in a single 
leap had been accurately measured, and was found to 
exceed, by an astounding difference, the wildest expec 
tations of the most imaginative. The Baron, besides, 
had no particular name for the animal, although all the 
rest in his collection were distinguished by character 
istic appellations. His stable, too, was appointed at a 
distance from the rest ; and, with regard to grooming 
and other necessary offices, none but the owner in person 
had ventured to officiate, or even to enter the enclosure 
of that horse s particular stall. It was also to be 
observed, that although the three grooms, who had 
caught the steed as he fled from the conflagration at 

171 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

Berlifitzing, had succeeded in arresting his course by 
means of a chain-bridle and noose yet not one of the 
three could with any certainty affirm that he had, during 
that dangerous struggle, or at any period thereafter, 
actually placed his hand upon the body of the beast. 
Instances of peculiar intelligence in the demeanour of a 
noble and high-spirited horse are not to be supposed 
capable of exciting unreasonable attention, but there 
were certain circumstances which intruded themselves 
perforce upon the most sceptical and phlegmatic ; and 
it is said there were times when the animal caused the 
gaping crowd who stood around to recoil in horror 
from the deep and impressive meaning of his terrible 
stamp times when the young Metzengerstein turned 
pale and shrunk away from the rapid and searching 
expression of his human-looking eye. 

Among all the retinue of the Baron, however, none 
were found to doubt the ardour of that extraordinary 
affection which existed on the part of the young noble 
man for the fiery qualities of his horse ; at least, none 
but an insignificant and misshapen little page, whose 
deformities were in everybody s way, and whose opinions 
were of the least possible importance. He (if his ideas 
are worth mentioning at all) had the effrontery to assert 
that his master never vaulted into the saddle without an 
unaccountable and almost imperceptible shudder ; and 
that, upon his return from every long-continued and 
habitual ride, an expression of triumphant malignity 
distorted every muscle in his countenance. 

One tempestuous night, Metzengerstein, awaking 
from a heavy slumber, descended like a maniac from his 
chamber, and, mounting in hot haste, bounded away 
into the mazes of the forest. An occurrence so common 
attracted no particular attention, but his return was 
172 



METZENGERSTEIN 

looked for with intense anxiety on the part of his 
domestics, when after some hours absence, the stupen 
dous and magnificent battlements of the Palace Metzen- 
gerstein were discovered crackling and rocking to their 
very foundation, under the influence of a dense and 
livid mass of ungovernable fire. 

As the flames, when first seen, had already made so 
terrible a progress that all efforts to save any portion of 
the building were evidently futile, the astonished neigh 
bourhood stood idly around in silent if not pathetic 
wonder. But a new and fearful object soon riveted 
the attention of the multitude, and proved how much 
more intense is the excitement wrought in the feelings 
of a crowd by the contemplation of human agony, than 
that brought about by the most appalling spectacles of 
inanimate matter. 

Up the long avenue of aged oaks which led from 
the forest to the main entrance of the Palace Metzen- 
gerstein, a steed, bearing an unbonneted and disordered 
rider, was seen leaping with an impetuosity which out 
stripped the very Demon of the Tempest. 

The career of the horseman was indisputably, on his 
own part, uncontrollable. The agony of his counten 
ance, the convulsive struggle of his frame, gave evidence 
of superhuman exertion ; but no sound, save a solitary 
shriek, escaped from his lacerated lips, which were 
bitten through and through in the intensity of terror. 
One instant, and the clattering of hoofs resounded sharply 
and shrilly above the roaring of the flames and the 
shrieking of the winds another, and, clearing at a 
single plunge the gate-way and the moat, the steed 
bounded far up the tottering staircases of the palace, 
and, with its rider, disappeared amid the whirlwind of 
chaotic fire. 

73 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

The fury of the tempest immediately died away, and 
a dead calm suddenly succeeded. A white flame still 
enveloped the building like a shroud, and, streaming far 
away into the quiet atmosphere, shot forth a glare of 
preternatural light ; while a cloud of smoke settled 
heavily over the battlements in the distinct colossal 
figure of a horse. 



THE PIT 8f THE PENDULUM 

I WAS sick sick unto death with that long agony ; 
and when they at length unbound me, and I was 
permitted to sit, I felt that my senses were leaving 
me. The sentence the dread sentence of death 
was the last of distinct accentuation which reached my 
ears. After that the sound of the inquisitorial voices 
seemed merged in one dreamy indeterminate hum. It 
conveyed to my soul the idea of revolution perhaps 
from its association in fancy with the burr of a mill- 
wheel. This only for a brief period, for presently I 
heard no more. Yet, for a while, I saw but with how 
terrible an exaggeration ! I saw the lips of the black- 
robed judges. They appeared to me white whiter 
than the sheet upon which I trace these words and 
thin even to grotesqueness ; thin with the intensity of 
their expression of firmness of immovable resolution 
of stern contempt of human torture. I saw that the 
decrees of what to me was Fate were still issuing from 
those lips. I saw them writhe with a deadly locution. 
I saw them fashion the syllables of my name ; and I 
shuddered because no sound succeeded. I saw, too, for 
a few moments of delirious horror, the soft and nearly 
imperceptible waving of the sable draperies which 
enwrapped the walls of the apartment. And then my 
vision fell upon the seven tall candles upon the table. 
At first they wore the aspect of charity, and seemed 
white slender angels who would save me ; but then, all 
at once, there came a most deadly nausea over my spirit, 
and I felt every fibre in my frame thrill as if I had 
touched the wire of a galvanic battery, while the angel 
forms became meaningless spectres, with heads of flame, 
and I saw that from them there would be no help. 
And then there stole into my fancy, like a rich musical 

75 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

note, the thought of what sweet rest there must be in 
the grave. The thought came gently and stealthily, 
and it seemed long before it attained full appreciation ; 
but just as my spirit came at length properly to feel 
and entertain it, the figures of the judges vanished, as if 
magically, from before me ; the tall candles sank into 
nothingness; their flames went out utterly; the black 
ness of darkness supervened ; all sensations appeared 
swallowed up in a mad rushing descent as of the soul 
into Hades. Then silence, and stillness, and night were 
the universe. 

I had swooned ; but still will not say that all of 
consciousness was lost. What of it remained I will 
not attempt to define, or even to describe ; yet all was 
not lost. In the deepest slumber no ! In delirium 
no ! In a swoon no ! In death no ! even in the 
grave all is not lost. Else there is no immortality for 
man. Arousing from the most profound of slumbers, 
we break the gossamer web of some dream. Yet in a 
second afterward (so frail may that web have been) we 
remember not that we have dreamed. In the return to 
life from the swoon there are two stages : first, that of 
the sense of mental or spiritual ; secondly, that of the 
sense of physical, existence. It seems probable that if, 
upon reaching the second stage, we could recall the 
impressions of the first, we should find these impressions 
eloquent in memories of the gulf beyond. And that 
gulf is what ? How at least shall we distinguish its 
shadows from those of the tomb ? But if the impres 
sions of what I have termed the first stage, are not at 
will, recalled, yet, after long interval, do they not come 
unbidden, while we marvel whence they come ? He 
who has never swooned, is not he who finds strange 
palaces and wildly familiar faces in coals that glow ; is 
176 



THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM 

not he who beholds floating in mid-air the sad visions 
that the many may not view; is not he who ponders 
over the perfume of some novel flower ; is not he 
whose brain grows bewildered with the meaning of 
some musical cadence which has never before arrested 
his attention. 

Amid frequent and thoughtful endeavours to re 
member, amid earnest struggles to regather some token 
of the state of seeming nothingness into which my soul 
had lapsed, there have been moments when I have 
dreamed of success ; there have been brief, very brief 
periods when I conjured up remembrances which the 
lucid reason of a later epoch assures me could have had 
reference only to that condition of seeming uncon 
sciousness. The shadows of memory tell, indistinctly, 
of tall figures that lifted and bore me in silence down 
down still down till a hideous dizziness oppressed 
me at the mere idea of the interminableness of the 
descent. They tell also of a vague horror at my heart, 
on account of that heart s unnatural stillness. Then 
comes a sense of sudden motionlessness throughout all 
things ; as if those who bore me (a ghastly train !) had 
outrun, in their descent, the limits of the limitless, and 
paused from the wearisomeness of their toil. After 
this I call to mind flatness and dampness ; and then all 
is madness the madness of a memory which busies 
itself among forbidden things. 

Very suddenly there came back to my soul motion 
and sound the tumultuous motion of my heart, and, 
in my ears, the sound of its beating. Then a pause in 
which all is blank. Then again sound, and motion, and 
touch a tingling sensation pervading my frame. Then 
the mere consciousness of existence, without thought 
a condition which lasted long. Then very suddenly, 

M 177 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

thought^ and shuddering terror, and earnest endeavour to 
comprehend my true state. Then a strong desire to 
lapse into insensibility. Then a rushing revival of soul 
and a successful effort to move. And now a full memory 
of the trial, of the judges, of the sable draperies, of the 
sentence, of the sickness, of the swoon. Then entire 
forgetfulness of all that followed ; of all that a later day 
and much earnestness of endeavour have enabled me 
vaguely to recall. 

So far, I had not opened my eyes. I felt that I lay 
upon my back, unbound. I reached out my hand, and 
it fell heavily upon something damp and hard. There 
I suffered it to remain for many minutes, while I strove 
to imagine where and what I could be. I longed, yet 
dared not, to employ my vision. I dreaded the first 
glance at objects around me. It was not that I feared 
to look upon things horrible, but that I grew aghast lest 
there should be nothing to see. At length, with a wild 
desperation at heart, I quickly unclosed my eyes. My 
worst thoughts, then, were confirmed. The blackness 
of eternal night encompassed me. I struggled for breath. 
The intensity of the darkness seemed to oppress and 
stifle me. The atmosphere was intolerably close. I 
still lay quietly, and made effort to exercise my reason. 
I brought to mind the inquisitorial proceedings, and 
attempted from that point to deduce my real condition. 
The sentence had passed ; and it appeared to me that a 
very long interval of time had since elapsed. Yet not 
for a moment did I suppose myself actually dead. Such 
a supposition, notwithstanding what we read in fiction, 
is altogether inconsistent with real existence ; but 
where and in what state was I ? The condemned to 
death, I knew, perished usually at the auto-da-fes^ and 
one of these had been held on the very night of the 



THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM 

day of my trial. Had I been remanded to my dungeon, 
to await the next sacrifice, which would not take place 
for many months ? This I at once saw could not be. 
Victims had been in immediate demand. Moreover, my 
dungeon, as well as all the condemned cells at Toledo, had 
stone floors, and light was now altogether excluded. 

A fearful idea now suddenly drove the blood in 
torrents upon my heart, and for a brief period I once 
more relapsed into insensibility. Upon recovering, I 
at once started to my feet, trembling convulsively in 
every fibre. I thrust my arms wildly above and around 
me in all directions. I felt nothing ; yet dreaded to 
move a step, lest I should be impeded by the walls of a 
tomb. Perspiration burst from every pore, and stood 
in cold big beads upon my forehead. The agony of 
suspense grew at length intolerable, and I cautiously 
moved forward, with my arms extended, and my eyes 
straining from their sockets in the hope of catching 
some faint ray of light. I proceeded for many paces ; 
but still all was blackness and vacancy. I breathed more 
freely. It seemed evident that mine was not, at least, 
the most hideous of fates. 

And now, as I still continued to step cautiously on 
ward, there came thronging upon my recollection a 
thousand vague rumours of the horrors of Toledo. Of 
the dungeons there had been strange things narrated 
fables I had always deemed them but yet strange, and 
too ghastly to repeat, save in a whisper. Was I left to 
perish of starvation in this subterranean world of dark 
ness ; or what fate, perhaps even more fearful, awaited 
me ? That the result would be death, and a death of 
more than customary bitterness, I knew too well the 
character of my judges to doubt. The mode and the 
hour were all that occupied or distracted me. 

179 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

My outstretched hands at length encountered some 
solid obstruction. It was a wall, seemingly of stone 
masonry very smooth, slimy, and cold. I followed it 
up; stepping with all the careful distrust with which 
certain antique narratives had inspired me. This 
process, however, afforded me no means of ascertaining 
the dimensions of my dungeon, as I might make its 
circuit and return to the point whence I set out with 
out being aware of the fact, so perfectly uniform seemed 
the wall. I therefore sought the knife which had been 
in my pocket when led into the inquisitorial chamber ; 
but it was gone ; my clothes had been exchanged for a 
wrapper of coarse serge. I had thought of forcing the 
blade in some minute crevice of the masonry, so as to 
identify my point of departure. The difficulty, never 
theless, was but trivial ; although, in the disorder of 
my fancy, it seemed at first insuperable. I tore a part 
of the hem from the robe and placed the fragment at 
full length, and at right angles to the wall. In groping 
my way around the prison, I could not fail to encounter 
this rag upon completing the circuit. So, at least, I 
thought ; but I had not counted upon the extent of 
the dungeon, or upon my own weakness. The ground 
was moist and slippery. I staggered onward for some 
time, when I stumbled and fell. My excessive fatigue 
induced me to remain prostrate ; and sleep soon over 
took me as I lay. 

Upon awaking, and stretching forth an arm, I found 
beside me a loaf and a pitcher with water. I was too 
much exhausted to reflect upon this circumstance, but 
ate and drank with avidity. Shortly afterward, I re 
sumed my tour around the prison, and with much toil, 
came at last upon the fragment of the serge. Up to 
the period when I fell, I had counted fifty-two paces, 
180 



THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM 

and, upon resuming my walk, I had counted forty-eight 
more when I arrived at the rag. There were in all, 
then, a hundred paces ; and, admitting two paces to the 
yard, I presumed the dungeon to be fifty yards in cir 
cuit. I had met, however, with many angles in the 
wall, and thus I could form no guess at the shape of 
the vault, for vault I could not help supposing it to be. 

I had little object certainly no hope in these re 
searches ; but a vague curiosity prompted me to con 
tinue them. Quitting the wall, I resolved to cross the 
area of the enclosure. At first, I proceeded with ex 
treme caution, for the floor, although seemingly of 
solid material, was treacherous with slime. At length, 
however, I took courage, and did not hesitate to step 
firmly endeavouring to cross in as direct a line as 
possible. I had advanced some ten or twelve paces in 
this manner, when the remnant of the torn hem of my 
robe became entangled between my legs. I stepped on 
it, and fell violently on my face. 

In the confusion attending my fall, I did not imme 
diately apprehend a somewhat startling circumstance, 
which yet, in a few seconds afterward, and while I still 
lay prostrate, arrested my attention. It was this : my 
chin rested upon the floor of the prison, but my lips, 
and the upper portion of my head, although seemingly 
at a less elevation than the chin, touched nothing. At 
the same time, my forehead seemed bathed in a clammy 
vapour, and the peculiar smell of decayed fungus arose 
to my nostrils. I put forward my arm, and shuddered 
to find that I had fallen at the very brink of a circular 
pit, whose extent, of course, I had no means of ascer 
taining at the moment. Groping about the masonry 
just below the margin, I succeeded in dislodging a small 
fragment, and let it fall into the abyss. For many 

181 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

seconds I barkened to its reverberations as it dashed 
against the sides of the chasm in its descent ; at length, 
there was a sullen plunge into water, succeeded by loud 
echoes. At the same moment, there came a sound 
resembling the quick opening and as rapid closing of a 
door overhead, while a faint gleam of light flashed 
suddenly through the gloom, and as suddenly faded 
away. 

I saw clearly the doom which had been prepared 
for me, and congratulated myself upon the timely 
accident by which I had escaped. Another step before 
my fall, and the world had seen me no more. And the 
death just avoided was of that very character which I 
had regarded as fabulous and frivolous in the tales re 
specting the Inquisition. To the victims of its tyranny, 
there was the choice of death with its direst physical 
agonies, or death with its most hideous moral horrors. 
I had been reserved for the latter. By long suffering 
my nerves had been unstrung, until I trembled at the 
sound of my own voice, and had become in every 
respect a fitting subject for the species of torture which 
awaited me. 

Shaking in every limb, I groped my way back to 
the wall resolving there to perish rather than risk the 
terrors of the wells, of which my imagination now 
pictured many in various positions about the dungeon. 
In other conditions of mind, I might have had courage 
to end my misery at once, by a plunge into one of these 
abysses ; but now I was the veriest of cowards. Neither 
could I forget what I had read of these pits that the 
sudden extinction of life formed no part of their most 
horrible plan. 

Agitation of spirit kept me awake for many long 
hours, but at length I again slumbered. Upon arousing, 
182 



THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM 

I found by my side, as before, a loaf and a pitcher of 
water. A burning thirst consumed me, and I emptied 
the vessel at a draught. It must have been drugged 
for scarcely had I drunk, before I became irresistibly 
drowsy. A deep sleep fell upon me a sleep like that 
of death. How long it lasted, of course I know not ; 
but when, once again, I unclosed my eyes, the objects 
around me were visible. By a wild, sulphurous lustre, 
the origin of which I could not at first determine, I 
was enabled to see the extent and aspect of the prison. 

In its size I had been greatly mistaken. The whole 
circuit of its walls did not exceed twenty-five yards. 
For some minutes this fact occasioned me a world of 
vain trouble ; vain indeed for what could be of less 
importance, under the terrible circumstances which 
environed me, than the mere dimensions of my dun 
geon ? But my soul took a wild interest in trifles, and 
I busied myself in endeavours to account for the error 
I had committed in my measurement. The truth at 
length flashed upon me. In my first attempt at 
exploration I had counted fifty-two paces, up to the 
period when I fell : I must then have been within a 
pace or two of the fragment of serge ; in fact, I had 
nearly performed the circuit of the vault. I then slept 
and upon awaking, I must have turned upon my 
steps thus supposing the circuit nearly double what it 
actually was. My confusion of mind prevented me 
from observing that I began my tour with the wall to 
the left, and ended with the wall to the right. 

I had been deceived, too, in respect to the shape of 
the enclosure. In feeling my way I had found many 
angles, and thus deduced an idea of great irregularity ; 
so potent is the effect of total darkness upon one arous 
ing from lethargy or sleep ! The angles were simply 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

those of a few slight depressions, or niches at odd 
intervals. The general shape of the prison was square. 
What I had taken for masonry seemed now to be iron, 
or some other metal, in huge plates, whose sutures or 
joints occasioned the depression. The entire surface of 
this metallic enclosure was rudely daubed in all the 
hideous and repulsive devices to which the charnel 
superstition of the monks has given rise. The figures 
of fiends in aspects of menace, with skeleton forms, and 
other more really fearful images, overspread and dis 
figured the walls. I observed that the outlines of these 
monstrosities were sufficiently distinct, but that the 
colours seemed faded and blurred, as if from the effects 
of a damp atmosphere. I now noticed the floor, too, 
which was of stone. In the centre yawned the circular 
pit from whose jaws I had escaped ; but it was the only 
one in the dungeon. 

All this I saw indistinctly and by much effort for 
my personal condition had been greatly changed during 
slumber. I now lay upon my back, and at full length, 
on a species of low framework of wood. To this I was 
securely bound by a long strap resembling a surcingle. 
It passed in many convolutions about my limbs and 
body, leaving at liberty only my head, and my left arm 
to such extent, that I could, by dint of much exertion, 
supply myself with food from an earthen dish which lay 
by my side on the floor. I saw, to my horror, that the 
pitcher had been removed. I say, to my horror for I was 
consumed with intolerable thirst. This thirst it appeared 
to be the design of my persecutors to stimulate for the 
food in the dish was meat pungently seasoned. 

Looking upward, I surveyed the ceiling of my 
prison. It was some thirty or forty feet overhead, and 
constructed much as the side walls. In one of its 
184 



THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM 

panels a very singular figure riveted my whole atten 
tion. It was the painted figure of Time as he is 
commonly represented, save that, in lieu of a scythe, 
he held what, at a casual glance, I supposed to be the 
pictured image of a huge pendulum, such as we see on 
antique clocks. There was something, however, in the 
appearance of this machine which caused me to regard 
it more attentively. While I gazed directly upward at 
it (for its position was immediately- over my own) I 
fancied that I saw it in motion. In an instant after 
ward the fancy was confirmed. Its sweep was brief, 
and of course slow. I watched it for some minutes 
somewhat in fear, but more in wonder. Wearied at 
length with observing its dull movement, I turned my 
eyes upon the other objects in the cell. 

A slight noise attracted my notice, and, looking to 
the floor, I saw several enormous rats traversing it. 
They had issued from the well which lay just within 
view to my right. Even then, while I gazed, they 
came up in troops, hurriedly, with ravenous eyes, allured 
by the scent of the meat. From this it required much 
effort and attention to scare them away. 

It might have been half an hour, perhaps even an 
hour (for I could take but imperfect note of time), 
before I again cast my eyes upward. What I then saw 
confounded and amazed me. The sweep of the pen 
dulum had increased in extent by nearly a yard. As a 
natural consequence its velocity was also much greater. 
But what mainly disturbed me was the idea that it had 
perceptibly descended. I now observed with what 
horror it is needless to say that its nether extremity 
was formed of a crescent of glittering steel, about a 
foot in length from horn to horn ; the horns upward, 
and the under edge evidently as keen as that of a razor. 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

Like a razor also, it seemed massive and heavy, taper 
ing from the edge into a solid and broad structure 
above. It was appended to a weighty rod of brass, and 
the whole hissed as it swung through the air. 

I could no longer doubt the doom prepared for me 
by monkish ingenuity in torture. My cognisance of 
the pit had become known to the inquisitorial agents 
the pit) whose horrors had been destined for so bold a 
recusant as myself the pit> typical of hell and regarded 
by rumour as the Ultima Thule of all their punish 
ments. The plunge into this pit I had avoided by the 
merest of accidents, and I knew that surprise, or en 
trapment into torment, formed an important portion of 
all the grotesquerie of these dungeon deaths. Having 
failed to fall, it was no part of the demon plan to hurl 
me into the abyss ; and thus (there being no alterna 
tive) a different and a milder destruction awaited me. 
Milder ! I half smiled in my agony as I thought of 
such application of such a term. 

What boots it to tell of the long, long hours of 
horror more than mortal, during which I counted the 
rushing oscillations of the steel ! Inch by inch line 
by line with a descent only appreciable at intervals 
that seemed ages down and still down it came ! Days 
passed it might have been that many days passed 
ere it swept so closely over me as to fan me with its 
acrid breath. The odour of the sharp steel forced itself 
into my nostrils. I prayed I wearied heaven with my 
prayer for its more speedy descent. I grew frantically 
mad, and struggled to force myself upward against the 
sweep of the fearful scimitar. And then I fell suddenly 
calm, and lay smiling at the glittering death, as a child 
at some rare bauble. 

There was another interval of utter insensibility ; 
1 86 



THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM 

it was brief; for upon again lapsing into life, there had 
been no perceptible descent in the pendulum. But it 
might have been long for I knew there were demons 
who took note of my swoon, and who could have 
arrested the vibration at pleasure. Upon my recovery, 
too, I felt very oh ! inexpressibly sick and weak, as 
if through long inanition. Even amid the agonies of 
that period the human nature craved food. With 
painful effort I outstretched my left arm as far as my 
bonds permitted, and took possession of the small 
remnant which had been spared me by the rats. As I 
put a portion of it within my lips, there rushed to my 
mind a half-formed thought of joy of hope. Yet what 
business had / with hope ? It was, as I say, a half- 
formed thought man has many such, which are never 
completed. I felt that it was of joy of hope ; but I 
felt also that it had perished in its formation. In vain 
I struggled to perfect to regain it. Long suffering 
had nearly annihilated all my ordinary powers of mind. 
I was an imbecile an idiot. 

The vibration of the pendulum was at right angles 
to my length. I saw that the crescent was designed to 
cross the region of the heart. It would fray the serge 
of my robe it would return and repeat its operations 
again and again. Notwithstanding its terrifically 
wide sweep (some thirty feet or more), and the hissing 
vigour of its descent, sufficient to sunder these very walls 
of iron, still the fraying of my robe would be all that, 
for several minutes, it would accomplish. And at this 
thought I paused. I dared not go further than this 
reflection. I dwelt upon it with a pertinacity of atten 
tion as if, in so dwelling, I could arrest here the descent 
of the steel. I forced myself to ponder upon the sound 
of the crescent as it should pass across the garment 

187 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

upon the peculiar thrilling sensation which the friction 
of cloth produces on the nerves. I pondered over all 
this frivolity until my teeth were on edge. 

Down steadily down it crept. I took a frenzied 
pleasure in contrasting its downward with its lateral 
velocity. To the right to the left far and wide 
with the shriek of a damned spirit ! to my heart, with 
the stealthy pace of the tiger ! I alternately laughed 
and howled, as the one or the other idea grew pre 
dominant. 

Down certainly, relentlessly down ! It vibrated 
within three inches of my bosom ! I struggled vio 
lently furiously to free my left arm. This was free 
only from the elbow to the hand. I could reach the 
latter, from the platter beside me, to my mouth, with 
great effort, but no farther. Could I have broken the 
fastenings above the elbow, I would have seized and 
attempted to arrest the pendulum. I might as well 
have attempted to arrest an avalanche ! 

Down still unceasingly still inevitably down ! 
I gasped and struggled at each vibration. I shrunk 
convulsively at its every sweep. My eyes followed its 
outward or upward whirls with the eagerness of the 
most unmeaning despair ; they closed themselves spas 
modically at the descent, although death would have 
been a relief, oh, how unspeakable ! Still I quivered 
in every nerve to think how slight a sinking of the 
machinery would precipitate that keen, glistening axe 
upon my bosom. It was hope that prompted the nerve 
to quiver the frame to shrink. It was hope the hope 
that triumphs on the rack that whispers to the death- 
condemned even in the dungeons of the Inquisition. 

I saw that some ten or twelve vibrations would bring 
the steel in actual contact with my robe and with this 
188 



THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM 

observation there suddenly came over my spirit all the 
keen, collected calmness of despair. For the first time 
during many hours or perhaps days I thought. It 
now occurred to me, that the bandage, or surcingle, 
which enveloped me, was unique. I was tied by no 
separate cord. The first stroke of the razor- like crescent 
athwart any portion of the band would so detach it that 
it might be unwound from my person by means of my 
left hand. But how fearful, in that case, the proximity 
of the steel ! The result of the slightest struggle, how 
deadly ! Was it likely, moreover, that the minions of 
the torturer had not foreseen and provided for this 
possibility ? Was it probable that the bandage crossed 
my bosom in the track of the pendulum ? Dreading to 
find my faint and, as it seemed, my last hope frustrated, 
I so far elevated my head as to obtain a distinct view of 
my breast. The surcingle enveloped my limbs and body 
close in all directions save in the path of the destroying 
crescent. 

Scarcely had I dropped my head back into its 
original position, when there flashed upon my mind 
what I cannot better describe than as the unformed half 
of that idea of deliverance to which I have previously 
alluded, and of which a moiety only floated indeter 
minately through my brain when I raised food to my 
burning lips. The whole thought was now present 
feeble, scarcely sane, scarcely definite but still entire. 
I proceeded at once, with the nervous energy of despair, 
to attempt its execution. 

For many hours the immediate vicinity of the low 
framework upon which I lay had been literally swarm 
ing with rats. They were wild, bold, ravenous their 
red eyes glaring upon me as if they waited but for 
motionlessness on my part to make me their prey. " To 

180 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

what food," I thought, " have they been accustomed 
in the well f " 

They had devoured, in spite of all my efforts to 
prevent them, all but a small remnant of the contents 
of the dish. I had fallen into an habitual see-saw or 
wave of the hand about the platter ; and, at length, the 
unconscious uniformity of the movement deprived it of 
effect. In their voracity, the vermin frequently fastened 
their sharp fangs in my fingers. With the particles 
of the oily and spicy viand which now remained, I 
thoroughly rubbed the bandage wherever I could reach 
it ; then, raising my hand from the floor, I lay breath 
lessly still. 

At first the ravenous animals were startled and 
terrified at the change at the cessation of movement. 
They shrank alarmedly back ; many sought the well. 
But this was only for a moment. I had not counted in 
vain upon their voracity. Observing that I remained 
without motion, one or two of the boldest leaped upon 
the framework and smelt at the surcingle. This seemed 
the signal for a general rush. Forth from the well they 
hurried in fresh troops. They clung to the wood they 
overran it, and leaped in hundreds upon my person. 
The measured movement of the pendulum disturbed 
them not at all. Avoiding its strokes they busied 
themselves with the anointed bandage. They pressed 
they swarmed upon me in ever-accumulating heaps. 
They writhed upon my throat ; their cold lips sought 
my own ; I was half-stifled by their thronging pressure ; 
disgust, for which the world has no name, swelled my 
bosom, and chilled, with a heavy clamminess, my heart. 
Yet one minute^ and I felt that the struggle would be 
over. Plainly I perceived the loosening of the bandage. 
I knew that in more than one place it must be already 
190 



THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM 

severed. With a more than human resolution I lay 
still. 

Nor had I erred in my calculations nor had I 
endured in vain. I at length felt that I vf&sfree. The 
surcingle hung in ribands from my body. But the stroke 
of the pendulum already pressed upon my bosom. It 
had divided the serge of the robe. It had cut through 
the linen beneath. Twice again it swung, and a sharp 
sense of pain shot through every nerve. But the moment 
of escape had arrived. At a wave of my hand my 
deliverers hurried tumultuously away. With a steady 
movement cautious, sidelong, shrinking, and slow I 
slid from the embrace of the bandage and beyond 
the reach of the scimitar. For the moment, at least, / 
was free. 

Free ! and in the grasp of the Inquisition ! I had 
scarcely stepped from my wooden bed of horror upon 
the stone floor of the prison, when the motion of the 
hellish machine ceased, and I beheld it drawn up, by 
some invisible force, through the ceiling. This was a 
lesson which I took desperately to heart. My every 
motion was undoubtedly watched. Free ! I had but 
escaped death in one form of agony, to be delivered 
unto worse than death in some other. With that 
thought I rolled my eyes nervously around on the 
barriers of iron that hemmed me in. Something un 
usual some change which at first I could not appreciate 
distinctly it was obvious, had taken place in the apart 
ment. For many minutes of a dreamy and trembling 
abstraction I busied myself in vain, unconnected con 
jecture. During this period I became aware, for the 
first time, of the origin of the sulphurous light which 
illumined the cell. It proceeded from a fissure, about 
half an inch in width, extending entirely around the 

191 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

prison at the base of the walls, which thus appeared, 
and were, completely separated from the floor. I 
endeavoured, but of course in vain, to look through the 
aperture. 

As I arose from the attempt, the mystery of the 
alteration in the chamber broke at once upon my 
understanding. I have observed that, although the 
outlines of the figures upon the walls were sufficiently 
distinct, yet the colours seemed blurred and indefinite. 
These colours had now assumed, and were momentarily 
assuming, a startling and most intense brilliancy that 
gave to the spectral and fiendish portraitures an 
aspect that might have thrilled even firmer nerves than 
my own. Demon eyes of a wild and ghastly vivacity, 
glared upon me in a thousand directions, where none 
had been visible before, and gleamed with the lurid 
lustre of a fire that I could not force my imagination to 
regard as unreal. 

Unreal ! Even while I breathed there came to my 
nostrils the breath of the vapour of heated iron ! A 
suffocating odour pervaded the prison ! A deeper glow 
settled each moment in the eyes that glared at my 
agonies ! A richer tint of crimson diffused itself over 
the pictured horrors of blood. I panted ! I gasped 
for breath ! There could be no doubt of the design of 
my tormentors oh, most unrelenting ! oh ! most 
demoniac of men ! I shrank from the glowing metal 
to the centre of the cell. Amid the thought of the 
fiery destruction that impended, the idea of the coolness 
of the well came over my soul like balm. I rushed to 
its deadly brink. I threw my straining vision below. 
The glare from the enkindled roof illumined its inmost 
recesses. Yet, for a wild moment, did my spirit refuse 
to comprehend the meaning of what I saw. At length 
192 



THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM 

it forced it wrestled its way into my soul it burned 
itself in upon my shuddering reason. Oh ! for a voice 
to speak ! oh ! horror ! oh ! any horror but this ! 
With a shriek I rushed from the margin, and buried 
my face in my hands weeping bitterly. 

The heat rapidly increased, and once again I looked 
up, shuddering as with a fit of the ague. There had 
been a second change in the cell and now the change 
was obviously in the form. As before, it was in vain 
that I at first endeavoured to appreciate or understand 
what was taking place. But not long was I left in 
doubt. The Inquisitorial vengeance had been hurried 
by my two-fold escape, and there was to be no more 
dallying with the King of Terrors. The room had 
been square. I saw that two of its iron angles were 
now acute two, consequently, obtuse. The fearful 
difference quickly increased with a low rumbling or 
moaning sound. In an instant the apartment had 
shifted its form into that of a lozenge. But the alte 
ration stopped not here I neither hoped nor desired 
it to stop. I could have clasped the red walls to my 
bosom as a garment of eternal peace. " Death," I said, 
" any death but that of the pit ! " Fool ! might I not 
have known that into the pit it was the object of the 
burning iron to urge me ? Could I resist its glow ? 
or if even that, could I withstand its pressure ? And 
now, flatter and flatter grew the lozenge, with a rapidity 
that left me no time for contemplation. Its centre, 
and of course its greatest width, came just over the 
yawning gulf. I shrank back but the closing walls 
pressed me resistlessly onward. At length for my seared 
and writhing body there was no longer an inch of foot 
hold on the firm floor of the prison. I struggled no 
more, but the agony of my soul found vent in one loud, 

N 193 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

long, and final scream of despair. I felt that I tottered 
upon the brink I averted my eyes 

There was a discordant hum of human voices ! 
There was a loud blast as of many trumpets ! There 
was a harsh grating as of a thousand thunders ! The 
fiery walls rushed back ! An outstretched arm caught 
my own as I fell, fainting, into the abyss. It was that 
of General Lasalle. The French army had entered 
Toledo. The Inquisition was in the hands of its 
enemies. 



194 



A DESCENT INTO THE 
MAELSTROM 

WE had now reached the summit of the 
loftiest crag. For some minutes the old 
man seemed too much exhausted to speak. 
" Not long ago," said he at length, " and 
I could have guided you on this route as well as the 
youngest of my sons ; but, about three years past, there 
happened to me an event such as never happened before 
to mortal man or, at least, such as no man ever sur 
vived to tell of and the six hours of deadly terror 
which I then endured have broken me up body and soul. 
You suppose me a very old man but I am not. It took 
less than a single day to change these hairs from a jetty 
black to white, to weaken my limbs, and to unstring 
my nerves, so that I tremble at the least exertion, and 
am frightened at a shadow. Do you know I can 
scarcely look over this little cliff without getting 
giddy ? " 

The "little cliff," upon whose edge he had so care 
lessly thrown himself down to rest that the weightier 
portion of his body hung over it, while he was only 
kept from falling by the tenure of his elbow on its 
extreme and slippery edge this " little cliff" arose, a 
sheer unobstructed precipice of black shining rock, some 
fifteen or sixteen hundred feet from the world of crags 
beneath us. Nothing would have tempted me to be 
within half a dozen yards of its brink. In truth so 
deeply was I excited by the perilous position of my 
companion, that I fell at full length upon the ground, 
clung to the shrubs around me, and dared not even 
glance upward at the sky while I struggled in vain to 
divest myself of the idea that the very foundations of 

*95 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

the mountain were in danger from the lury of the winds. 
It was long before I could reason myself into sufficient 
courage to sit up and look out into the distance. 

" You must get over these fancies," said the guide, 
"for I have brought you here that you might have the 
best possible view of the scene of that event I mentioned 
and to tell you the whole story with the spot just 
under your eye." 

" We are now," he continued, in that particularising 
manner which distinguished him " we are now close 
upon the Norwegian coast in the sixty-eighth degree 
of latitude in the great province of Nordland and in 
the dreary district of Lofoden. The mountain upon 
whose top we sit is Helseggen, the Cloudy. Now 
raise yourself up a little higher hold on to the grass 
if you feel giddy so and look out, beyond the belt of 
vapour beneath us, into the sea." 

I looked dizzily, and beheld a wide expanse of ocean, 
whose waters wore so inky a hue as to bring at once to 
my mind the Nubian geographer s account of the Mare 
Tenebrarum. A panorama more deplorably desolate no 
human imagination can conceive. To the right and 
left, as far as the eye could reach, there lay outstretched 
like ramparts of the world, lines of horribly black and 
beetling cliff, whose character of gloom was but the 
more forcibly illustrated by the surf which reared high 
up against it its white and ghastly crest, howling and 
shrieking for ever. Just opposite the promontory upon 
whose apex we were placed, and at a distance of some 
five or six miles out at sea, there was visible a small, 
bleak-looking island ; or, more properly, its position 
was discernible through the wilderness of surge in which 
it was enveloped. About two miles nearer the land, 
arose another of smaller size, hideously craggy and 
196 



A DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM 

barren, and encompassed at various intervals by a cluster 
of dark rocks. 

The appearance of the ocean, in the space between 
the more distant island and the shore, had something 
very unusual about it. Although, at the time, so strong 
a gale was blowing landward that a brig in the remote 
offing lay to under a double-reefed trysail, and constantly 
plunged her whole hull out of sight, still there was 
here nothing like a regular swell, but only a short quick 
angry cross dashing of water in every direction as 
well in the teeth of the wind as otherwise. Of foam 
there was little except in the immediate vicinity of the 
rocks. 

" The island in the distance," resumed the old man, 
"is called by the Norwegians Vurrgh. The one mid 
way is Moskoe. That a mile to the northward is 
Ambaaren. Yonder are Islesen, Hotholm, Keildhelm, 
Suarven, and Buckholm. Further off between Moskoe 
and Vurrgh are Otterholm, Flimen, Sandflesen, and 
Stockholm. These are the true names of the places 
but why it has been thought necessary to name them 
at all, is more than either you or I can understand. 
Do you hear anything ? Do you see any change in the 
water ? " 

We had now been about ten minutes upon the top 
of Helseggen, to which we had ascended from the 
interior of Lofoden, so that we had caught no glimpse 
of the sea until it had burst upon us from the summit. 
As the old man spoke, I became aware of a loud and 
gradually increasing sound, like the moaning of a vast 
herd of buffaloes upon an American prairie ; and at 
the same moment I perceived that what seamen term 
the chopping character of the ocean beneath us, was 
rapidly changing into a current which set to the east- 

197 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

ward. Even while I gazed, this current acquired a 
monstrous velocity. Each moment added to its speed 
to its headlong impetuosity. In five minutes the 
whole sea as far as Vurrgh, was lashed into ungovern 
able fury ; but it was between Moskoe and the coast 
that the main uproar held its sway. Here the vast bed 
of the waters seamed and scarred into a thousand con 
flicting channels, burst suddenly into frenzied convul 
sion heaving, boiling, hissing gyrating in gigantic 
and innumerable vortices, and all whirling and plunging 
on to the eastward with a rapidity which water never 
elsewhere assumes, except in precipitous descents. 

In a few minutes more, there came over the scene 
another radical alteration. The general surface grew 
somewhat more smooth, and the whirlpools, one by 
one, disappeared, while prodigious streaks of foam 
became apparent where none had been seen before. 
These streaks, at length, spreading out to a great 
distance, and entering into combination, took unto 
themselves the gyratory motion of the subsided vor 
tices, and seemed to form the germ of another more 
vast. Suddenly very suddenly this assumed a dis 
tinct and definite existence, in a circle of more than a 
mile in diameter. The edge of the whirl was repre 
sented by a broad belt of gleaming spray ; but no 
particle of this slipped into the mouth of the terrific 
funnel, whose interior, as far as the eye could fathom 
it, was a smooth, shining, and jet-black wall of water, 
inclined to the horizon at an angle of some forty-five 
degrees, speeding dizzily round and round with a sway 
ing and sweltering motion, and sending forth to the 
winds an appalling voice, half shriek, half roar, such 
as not even the mighty cataract of Niagara ever lifts 
up in its agony to Heaven. 
198 



A DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM 

The mountain trembled to its very base, and the 
rock rocked. I threw myself upon my face, and clung 
to the scant herbage in an excess of nervous agitation. 

" This," said I at length, to the old man " this can 
be nothing else than the great whirlpool of the Mael 
strom. 

" So it is sometimes termed," said he. " We 
Norwegians call it the Moskoe-strom, from the island 
of Moskoe in the midway." 

The ordinary account of this vortex had by no 
means prepared me for what I saw. That of Jonas 
Ramus, which is perhaps the most circumstantial of 
any, cannot impart the faintest conception either ot 
the magnificence, or of the horror of the scene or of 
the wild bewildering sense of the novel which con 
founds the beholder. I am not sure from what point 
of view the writer in question surveyed it, nor at what 
time ; but it could neither have been from the summit 
of Helseggen, nor during a storm. There are some 
passages of his description, nevertheless, which may be 
quoted for their details, although their effect is exceed 
ingly feeble in conveying an impression of the 
spectacle. 

" Between Lofoden and Moskoe," he says, " the 
depth of the water is between thirty-six and forty 
fathoms ; but on the other side, toward Ver (Vurrgh) 
this depth decreases so as not to afford a convenient 
passage for a vessel, without the risk of splitting on 
the rocks, which happens even in the calmest weather. 
When it is flood, the stream runs up the country 
between Lofoden and Moskoe with a boisterous 
rapidity ; but the roar of its impetuous ebb to the sea 
is scarce equalled by the loudest and most dreadful 
cataracts ; the noise being heard several leagues off, 

199 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

and the vortices or pits are of such an extent and 
depth, that if a ship comes within its attraction, it is 
inevitably absorbed and carried down to the bottom, 
and there beat to pieces against the rocks ; and when 
the water relaxes, the fragments thereof are thrown up 
again. But these intervals of tranquillity are only at 
the turn of the ebb and flood, and in calm weather, 
and last but a quarter of an hour, its violence gradually 
returning. When the stream is most boisterous, and 
its fury heightened by a storm, it is dangerous to come 
within a Norway mile of it. Boats, yachts, and ships 
have been carried away by not guarding against it 
before they were carried within its reach. It likewise 
happens frequently, that whales come too near the 
stream, and are overpowered by its violence ; and then 
it is impossible to describe their bowlings and bellow- 
ings in their fruitless struggles to disengage themselves. 
A bear once, attempting to swim from Lofoden to 
Moskoe? was caught by the stream and borne down, 
while he roared terribly, so as to be heard on shore. 
Large stocks of firs and pine trees, after being absorbed 
by the current, rise again broken and torn to such a 
degree as if bristles grew upon them. This plainly 
shows the bottom to consist of craggy rocks, among 
which they are whirled to and fro. The stream is 
regulated by the flux and reflux of the sea it being 
constantly high and low water every six hours. In 
the year 1645, early in the morning of Sexagesima 
Sunday, it raged with such noise and impetuosity that 
the very stones of the houses on the coast fell to the 
ground." 

In regard to the depth of the water, I could not 
see how this could have been ascertained at all in 
the immediate vicinity of the vortex. The " forty 
200 



A DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM 

fathoms " must have reference only to portions of the 
channel close upon the shore either of Moskoe or 
Lofoden. The depth in the centre of the Moskoe- 
strom must be unmeasurably greater ; and no better 
proof of this fact is necessary than can be obtained 
from even the sidelong glance into the abyss of the 
whirl which may be had from the highest crag of 
Helseggen. Looking down from this pinnacle upon 
the howling Phlegethon below, I could not help smiling 
at the simplicity with which the honest Jonas Ramus 
records, as a matter difficult of belief, the anecdotes of 
the whales and the bears, for it appeared to me, in 
fact, a self-evident thing, that the largest ships of the 
line in existence, coming within the influence of that 
deadly attraction, could resist it as little as a feather 
the hurricane, and must disappear bodily and at 
once. 

The attempts to account for the phenomenon 
some of which, I remember, seemed to me sufficiently 
plausible in perusal now wore a very different and 
unsatisfactory aspect. The idea generally received is 
that this, as well as three smaller vortices among the 
Ferroe Islands, " have no other cause than the collision 
of waves rising and falling, at flux and reflux, against a 
ridge of rocks and shelves, which confines the water so 
that it precipitates itself like a cataract ; and thus the 
higher the flood rises, the deeper must the fall be, and 
the natural result of all is a whirlpool or vortex, the 
prodigious suction of which is sufficiently known by 
lesser experiments." These are the words of the 
Encyclopaedia Britannic a. Kircher and others imagine 
that in the centre of the channel of the Maelstrom is 
an abyss penetrating the globe, and issuing in some 
very remote part the Gulf of Bothnia being somewhat 

201 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

decidedly named in one instance. This opinion, idle 
in itself, was the one to which, as I gazed, my imagi 
nation most readily assented ; and, mentioning it to 
the guide, I was rather surprised to hear him say that, 
although it was the view almost universally entertained 
of the subject by the Norwegians, it nevertheless was 
not his own. As to the former notion he confessed 
his inability to comprehend it ; and here I agreed with 
him for, however conclusive on paper, it becomes 
altogether unintelligible, and even absurd, amid the 
thunder of the abyss. 

" You have had a good look at the whirl now," 
said the old man, " and if you creep round this crag, 
so as to get in its lee, and deaden the roar of the water, 
I will tell you a story that will convince you I ought 
to know something of the Moskoe-strom." 

I placed myself as desired, and he proceeded. 

" Myself and my two brothers once owned a 
schooner-rigged smack of about seventy tons burthen, 
with which we were in the habit of fishing among the 
islands beyond Moskoe, nearly to Vurrgh. In all 
violent eddies at sea there is good fishing, at proper 
opportunities, if one has only the courage to attempt 
it ; but among the whole of the Lofoden coastmen, we 
three were the only ones who made a regular business of 
going out to the islands, as I tell you. The usual grounds 
are a great way lower down to the southward. There 
fish can be got at all hours, without much risk, and there 
fore these places are preferred. The choice spots over 
here among the rocks, however, not only yield the 
finest variety, but in far greater abundance ; so that we 
often got in a single day, what the more timid of the 
craft could not scrape together in a week. In fact, we 
made it a matter of desperate speculation the risk of 
202 



A DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM 

life standing instead of labour, and courage answering 
for capital. 

" We kept the smack in a cove about five miles 
higher up the coast than this ; and it was our 
practice, in fine weather, to take advantage of the 
fifteen minutes slack to push across the main channel 
of the Moskoe-strom, far above the pool, and then drop 
down upon anchorage somewhere near Otterham, or 
Sandflesen, where the eddies are not so violent as else 
where. Here we used to remain until nearly time 
for slack-water again, when we weighed and made 
for home. We never set out upon this expedition 
without a steady side wind for going and coming one 
that we felt sure would not fail us before our return 
and we seldom made a miscalculation upon this point. 
Twice, during six years, we were forced to stay all night 
at anchor on account of a dead calm, which is a rare 
thing indeed just about here ; and once we had to 
remain on the grounds nearly a week, starving to death, 
owing to a gale which blew up shortly after our arrival, 
and made the channel too boisterous to be thought of. 
Upon this occasion we should have been driven out to 
sea in spite of everything (for the whirlpools threw us 
round and round so violently, that, at length, we fouled 
our anchor and dragged it) if it had not been that we 
drifted into one of the innumerable cross currents here 
to-day and gone to-morrow which drove us under the 
lee of Flimen, where, by good luck, we brought up. 

" I could not tell you the twentieth part of the 
difficulties we encountered c on the ground it is a 
bad spot to be in, even in good weather but we made 
shift always to run the gauntlet of the Moskoe-strom 
itself without accident ; although at times my heart 
has been in my mouth when we happened to be a 

203 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

minute or so behind or before the slack. The wind 
sometimes was not as strong as we thought it at start 
ing, and then we made rather less way than we could 
wish, while the current rendered the smack unmanage 
able. My eldest brother had a son eighteen years old, 
and I had two stout boys of my own. These would 
have been of great assistance at such times, in using the 
sweeps as well as afterward in fishing but, somehow, 
although we ran the risk ourselves, we had not the 
heart to let the young ones get into the danger for, 
after all said and done, it was a horrible danger, and 
that is the truth. 

" It is now within a few days of three years since 
what I am going to tell you occurred. It was on the 
tenth of July, 18 , a day which the people of this 
part of the world will never forget for it was one in 
which blew the most terrible hurricane that ever came 
out of the heavens. And yet all the morning, and 
indeed until late in the afternoon, there was a gentle 
and steady breeze from the south-west, while the sun 
shone brightly, so that the oldest seaman among us 
could not have foreseen what was to follow. 

" The three of us my two brothers and myself 
had crossed over to the islands about two o clock P.M., 
and soon nearly loaded the smack with fine fish, which, 
we all remarked, were more plenty that day than we 
had ever known them. It was just seven, by mywatch^ 
when we weighed and started for home, so as to make 
the worst of the Strom at slack water, which we knew 
would be at eight. 

" We set out with a fresh wind on our starboard 
quarter, and for some time spanked along at a great 
rate, never dreaming of danger, for indeed we saw not 
the slightest reason to apprehend it. All at once we 
204 



A DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM 

were taken aback by a breeze from over Helseggen. 
This was most unusual something that had never 
happened to us before and I began to feel a little 
uneasy, without exactly knowing why. We put the 
boat on the wind, but could make no headway at all 
for the eddies, and I was upon the point of proposing 
to return to the anchorage, when, looking astern, we 
saw the whole horizon covered with a singular copper- 
coloured cloud that rose with the most amazing 
velocity. 

" In the meantime the breeze that had headed us oft 
fell away and we were dead becalmed, drifting about in 
every direction. This state of things, however, did not 
last long enough to give us time to think about it. In 
less than a minute the storm was upon us in less than 
two the sky was entirely overcast and what with this 
and the driving spray, it became suddenly so dark that 
we could not see each other in the smack. 

" Such a hurricane as then blew it is folly to attempt 
describing. The oldest seamen in Norway never 
experienced anything like it. We had let our sails go 
by the run before it cleverly took us ; but, at the first 
puff, both our masts went by the board as if they had 
been sawed off the mainmast taking with it my 
youngest brother, who had lashed himself to it for 
safety. 

" Our boat was the lightest feather of a thing that 
ever sat upon water. It had a complete flush deck, 
with only a small hatch near the bow, and this hatch 
it had always been our custom to batten down when 
about to cross the Strom, by way of precaution against 
the chopping seas. But for this circumstance we 
should have foundered at once for we lay entirely 
buried for some moments. How my elder brother 

205 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

escaped destruction I cannot say, for I never had an 
opportunity of ascertaining. For my part, as soon as 
I had let the foresail run, I threw myself flat on deck, 
with my feet against the narrow gunwale of the bow, 
and with my hands grasping a ring-bolt near the foot 
of the foremast. It was mere instinct that prompted 
me to do this which was undoubtedly the very best 
thing I could have done for I was too much flurried 
to think. 

" For some moments we were completely deluged, 
as I say, and all this time I held my breath, and clung 
to the bolt. When I could stand it no longer I raised 
myself upon my knees, still keeping hold with my 
hands, and thus got my head clear. Presently our little 
boat gave herself a shake, just as a dog does in coming 
out of the water, and thus rid herself, in some measure, 
of the seas. I was now trying to get the better of the 
stupor that had come over me, and to collect my senses 
so as to see what was to be done, when I felt somebody 
grasp my arm. It was my elder brother, and my heart 
leaped for joy, for I had made sure that he was over 
board but the next moment all this joy was turned 
into horror for he put his mouth close to my ear, 
and screamed out the word Moskoe-strbm ! 

" No one ever will know what my feelings were at 
that moment. I shook from head to foot as if I had 
had the most violent fit of the ague. I knew what he 
meant by that one word well enough I knew what he 
wished to make me understand. With the wind that 
now drove us on, we were bound for the whirl of the 
Strom, and nothing could save us ! 

" You perceive that in crossing the Strom channel, 
we always went a long way up above the whirl, even 
in the calmest weather, and then had to wait and watch 
206 



A DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM 

carefully for the slack but now we were driving right 
upon the pool itself, and in such a hurricane as this ! 
c To be sure, I thought, we shall get there just about 
the slack there is some little hope in that but in the 
next moment I cursed myself for being so great a fool 
as to dream of hope at all. I knew very well that 
we were doomed, had we been ten times a ninety-gun 
ship. 

" By this time the first fury of the tempest had spent 
itself, or perhaps we did not feel it so much, as we 
scudded before it, but at all events the seas, which at 
first had been kept down by the wind, and lay flat and 
frothing, now got up into absolute mountains. A sin 
gular change too, had come over the heavens. Around 
in every direction it was still as black as pitch, but 
nearly overhead there burst out, all at once, a circular 
rift of clear sky as clear as I ever saw and of a deep 
bright blue and through it there blazed forth the full 
moon with a lustre that I never before knew her to 
wear. She lit up everything about us with the greatest 
distinctness but, oh God, what a scene it was to light 
up. 

" I now made one or two attempts to speak to my 
brother but in some manner which I could not under 
stand, the din had so increased that I could not make 
him hear a single word, although I screamed at the top 
of my voice in his ear. Presently he shook his head, 
looking as pale as death, and held up one of his fingers, 
as if to say listen ! 

" At first I could not make out what he meant 
but soon a hideous thought flashed upon me. I dragged 
my watch from its fob. It was not going. I glanced 
at its face by the moonlight, and then burst into tears 
as I flung it far away into the ocean. It had run down 

207 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

at seven o clock ! We were behind the time of the slack, and 
the whirl of the Strom was in full fury ! 

" When a boat is well built, properly trimmed, and 
not deep laden, the waves in a strong gale, when she is 
going large, seem always to slip from beneath her 
which appears strange to a landsman and this is what 
is called riding, in sea phrase. 

" Well, so far we had ridden the swells very cleverly 
but presently a gigantic sea happened to take us right 
under the counter, and bore us with it as it rose up 
up as if into the sky. I would not have believed 
that any wave could rise so high. And then down we 
came with a sweep, a slide, and a plunge that made me 
feel sick and dizzy, as if I was falling from some lofty 
mountain-top in a dream. But while we were up I 
had thrown a quick glance around and that one glance 
was all-sufficient. I saw our exact position in an 
instant. The Moskoe-strom whirlpool was about a 
quarter of a mile dead ahead but no more like the 
every-day Moskoe-strom than the whirl, as you now 
see it, is like a mill-race. If I had not known where 
we were, and what we had to expect, I should not have 
recognised the place at all. As it was, I involuntarily 
closed my eyes in horror. The lids clenched themselves 
together as if in a spasm. 

" It could not have been more than two minutes 
afterwards until we suddenly felt the waves subside, and 
were enveloped in foam. The boat made a sharp half 
turn to larboard, and then shot off in its new direction 
like a thunderbolt. At the same moment the roaring 
noise of the water was completely drowned in a kind of 
shrill shriek such a sound as you might imagine given 
out by the water-pipes of many thousand steam-vessels 
letting off their steam all together. We were now 
208 



A DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM 

in the belt of surf that always surrounds the whirl ; 
and I thought, of course, that another moment 
would plunge us into the abyss, down which we 
could only see indistinctly on account of the amazing 
velocity with which we were borne along. The 
boat did not seem to sink into the water at all, but 
to skim like an air-bubble upon the surface of the 
surge. Her starboard side was next the whirl, and 
on the larboard arose the world of ocean we had left. 
It stood like a huge writhing wall between us and the 
horizon. 

" It may appear strange, but now, when we were 
in the very jaws of the gulf, I felt more composed than 
when we were only approaching it. Having made up my 
mind to hope no more, I got rid of a great deal of that 
terror which unmanned me at first. I supposed it was 
despair that strung my nerves. 

" It may look like boasting but what I tell you is 
truth I began to reflect how magnificent a thing it 
was to die in such a manner, and how foolish it was in 
me to think of so paltry a consideration as my own 
individual life, in view of so wonderful a manifestation 
of God s power. I do believe that I blushed with 
shame when this idea crossed my mind. After a little 
while I became possessed with the keenest curiosity 
about the whirl itself. I positively felt a wish to explore 
its depths, even at the sacrifice I was going to make ; 
and my principal grief was that I should never be able 
to tell my own companions on shore about the mysteries 
I should see. These, no doubt, were singular fancies 
to occupy a man s mind in such extremity and I 
have often thought since, that the revolutions of the boat 
around the pool might have rendered me a little light 
headed. 

o 209 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

" There was another circumstance which tended to 
restore my self-possession ; and this was the cessation 
of the wind, which could not reach us in our present 
situation for, as you saw for yourself, the belt of the 
surf is considerably lower than the general bed of the 
ocean, and this latter now towered above us, a high, 
black, mountainous ridge. If you have never been at 
sea in a heavy gale, you can form no idea of the con 
fusion of mind occasioned by the wind and spray 
together. They blind, deafen, and strangle you, and 
take away all power of action or reflection. But we 
were now, in a great measure, rid of these annoyances 
-just as death-condemned felons in prison are allowed 
petty indulgences, forbidden them while their doom is 
yet uncertain. 

" How often we made the circuit of the belt it is 
impossible to say. We careered round and round for 
perhaps an hour, flying rather than floating, getting 
gradually more and more into the middle of the surge, 
and then nearer and nearer to its horrible inner edge. 
All this time I had never let go of the ring-bolt. My 
brother was at the stern, holding on to a small empty 
water-cask which had been securely lashed under the 
coop of the counter, and was the only thing on deck 
that had not been swept overboard when the gale first 
took us. As we approached the brink of the pit he 
let go his hold upon this, and made for the ring, from 
which, in the agony of his terror, he endeavoured to 
force my hands, as it was not large enough to afford us 
both a secure grasp. I never felt deeper grief than 
when I saw him attempt this act although I knew he 
was a madman when he did it a raving maniac through 
sheer fright. I did not care, however, to contest the 
point with him. I knew it could make no difference 
210 



A DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM 

whether either of us held on at all ; so I let him have 
the bolt, and went astern to the cask. This there was 
no great difficulty in doing ; for the smack flew round 
steadily enough, and upon an even keel only swaying 
to and fro with the immense sweeps and swelters of 
the whirl. Scarcely had I secured myself in my new 
position, when we gave a wild lurch to starboard, and 
rushed headlong into the abyss. I muttered a hurried 
prayer to God, and thought all was over. 

" As I felt the sickening sweep of the descent, I had 
instinctively tightened my hold upon the barrel, and 
closed my eyes. For some seconds I dared not open 
them while I expected instant destruction, and won 
dered that I was not already in my death-struggles with 
the water. But moment after moment elapsed. I still 
lived. The sense of falling had ceased ; and the motion 
of the vessel seemed much as it had been before, while 
in the belt of foam, with the exception that she now 
lay more along. I took courage and looked once again 
upon the scene. 

" Never shall I forget the sensation of awe, horror, 
and admiration with which I gazed about me. The 
boat appeared to be hanging, as if by magic, midway 
down, upon the interior surface of a funnel vast in 
circumference, prodigious in depth, and whose perfectly 
smooth sides might have been mistaken for ebony, but 
for the bewildering rapidity with which they spun 
around, and for the gleaming and ghastly radiance they 
shot forth, as the rays of the full moon, from that 
circular rift amid the clouds which I have already 
described, streamed in a flood of golden glory along the 
black walls, and far away down into the inmost recesses 
of the abyss. 

" At firstl was too much confused to observe any- 

21 I 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

thing accurately. The general burst of terrific grandeur 
was all that I beheld. When I recovered myself a 
little, however, my gaze fell instinctively downward. 
In this direction I was able to obtain an unobstructed 
view, from the manner in which the smack hung on 
the inclined surface of the pool. She was quite upon 
an even keel that is to say, her deck lay in a plane 
parallel with that of the water but this latter sloped 
at an angle of more than forty-five degrees, so that we 
seemed to be lying upon our beam ends. I could not 
help observing, nevertheless, that I had scarcely more 
difficulty in maintaining my hold and footing in this 
situation, than if we had been upon a dead level ; and 
this, I suppose, was owing to the speed at which we 
revolved. 

" The rays of the moon seemed to search the very 
bottom of the profound gulf ; but still I could make 
out nothing distinctly on account of a thick mist in 
which everything there was enveloped, and over which 
there hung a magnificent rainbow, like that narrow and 
tottering bridge which Mussulmans say is the only 
pathway between Time and Eternity. This mist, or 
spray, was no doubt occasioned by the clashing of the 
great walls of the funnel, as they all met together 
at the bottom but the yell that went up to the 
heavens from out of that mist I dare not attempt to 
describe. 

" Our first slide into the abyss itself, from the belt 
of foam above, had carried us to a great distance down 
the slope ; but our further descent was by no means 
proportionate. Round and round we swept not with 
any uniform movement but in dizzying swings and 
jerks, that sent us sometimes only a few hundred yards 
sometimes nearly the complete circuit of the whirl. 
212 



A DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM 

Our progress downward, at each revolution, was slow, 
but very perceptible. 

" Looking about me upon the wide waste of liquid 
ebony on which we were thus borne, I perceived that 
our boat was not the only object in the embrace of the 
whirl. Both above and below us were visible fragments 
of vessels, large masses of building-timber and trunks of 
trees, with many smaller articles, such as pieces of 
house furniture, broken boxes, barrels and staves. I 
have already described the unnatural curiosity which 
had taken the place of my original terrors. It appeared 
to grow upon me as I drew nearer and nearer to my 
dreadful doom. I now began to watch, with a strange 
interest, the numerous things that floated in our com 
pany. I must have been delirious, for I even sought 
amusement in speculating upon the relative velocities of 
their several descents toward the foam below. This 
fir-tree, I found myself at one time saying, will certainly 
be the next thing that takes the awful plunge and dis 
appears and then I was disappointed to find that the 
wreck of a Dutch merchant ship overtook it and went 
down before. At length, after making several guesses 
of this nature, and being deceived in all this fact the 
fact of my invariable miscalculation, set me upon a 
train of reflection that made my limbs again tremble, 
and my heart beat heavily once more. 

" It was not a new terror that thus affected me, but 
the dawn of a more exciting hope. This hope arose 
partly from memory, and partly from present observa 
tion. I called to mind the great variety of buoyant 
matter that strewed the coast of Lofoden, having been 
absorbed and then thrown forth by the Moskoe-strom. 
By far the greater number of the articles were shattered 
in the most extraordinary way so chafed and rough- 

213 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

cned as to have the appearance of being stuck full of 
splinters but then I distinctly recollected that there 
were some of them which were not disfigured at all. 
Now I could not account for this difference except by 
supposing that the roughened fragments were the only 
ones which had been completely absorbed that the others 
had entered the whirl at so late a period of the tide, or, 
from some reason, had descended so slowly after entering, 
that they did not reach the bottom before the turn of 
the flood came, or of the ebb, as the case might be. I 
conceived it possible, in either instance, that they might 
thus be whirled up again to the level of the ocean, 
without undergoing the fate of those which had been 
drawn in more early or absorbed more rapidly. I made 
also three important observations. The first was, that 
as a general rule, the larger the bodies were, the more 
rapid their descent the second, that, between two 
masses of equal extent, the one spherical, and the other 
of any other shape ^ the superiority in speed of descent 
was with the sphere the third, that, between two 
masses of equal size, the one cylindrical, and the other 
of any other shape, the cylinder was absorbed the more 
slowly. Since my escape, I have had several conversa 
tions on this subject with an old school-master of the 
district ; and it was from him that I learned the use of 
the words cylinder and sphere. He explained to 
me although I have forgotten the explanation how 
what I observed was, in fact, the natural consequence 
of the forms of the floating fragments and showed me 
how it happened that a cylinder, swimming in a vortex, 
offered more resistance to its suction, and was drawn in 
with greater difficulty than an equally bulky body, of 
any form whatever.* 

* See Archimedes, " De Incidentibus in Fluido" lib 2. 
214 



A DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM 

" There was one startling circumstance which went 
a great way in enforcing these observations, and ren 
dering me anxious to turn them to account, and this 
was that, at every revolution, we passed something like 
a barrel, or else the yard or the mast of a vessel, while 
many of these things, which had been on our level when 
I first opened my eyes upon the wonders of the whirl 
pool, were now high up above us, and seemed to have 
moved but little from their original station. 

" I no longer hesitated what to do. I resolved to 
lash myself securely to the water cask upon which I 
now held, to cut it loose from the counter, and to throw 
myself with it into the water. I attracted my brother s 
attention by signs, pointed to the floating barrels that 
came near us, and did everything in my power to make 
him understand what I was about to do. I thought 
at length that he comprehended my design but, 
whether this was the case or not, he shook his head 
despairingly, and refused to move from his station by 
the ring-bolt. It was impossible to reach him ; the 
emergency admitted of no delay ; and so, with a bitter 
struggle, I resigned him to his fate, fastened myself to 
the cask by means of the lashings which secured it to 
the counter, and precipitated myself with it into the 
sea without another moment s hesitation. 

" The result, was precisely what I hoped it might 
be. As it is myself who now tell you this tale as you 
see that I did escape and as you are already in posses 
sion of the mode in which this escape was effected, and 
must therefore anticipate all that I have farther to say 
I will bring my story quickly to conclusion. It 
might have been an hour, or thereabouts, after my 
quitting the smack, when, having descended to a vast 
distance beneath me, it made three or four wild 

215 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

gyrations in rapid succession and, bearing my loved 
brother with it, plunged headlong, at once and for ever, 
into the chaos of foam below. The barrel to which I 
was attached sunk very little further than half the 
distance between the bottom of the gulf and the spot 
at which I leaped overboard, before a great change took 
place in the character of the whirlpool. The slope of 
the sides of the vast funnel became momently less and 
less steep. The gyrations of the whirl grew, gradually, 
less and less violent. By degrees, the froth and the 
rainbow disappeared, and the bottom of the gulf seemed 
slowly to uprise. The sky was clear, the winds had 
gone down, and the full moon was setting radiantly in 
the west, when I found myself on the surface of the 
ocean, in full view of the shores of Lofoden, and above 
the spot where the pool of the Moskoe-strom had been. 
It was the hour of the slack but the sea still heaved 
in mountainous waves from the effects of the hurricane. 
I was borne violently into the channel of the Strom, 
and in a few minutes, was hurried down the coast into 
the " grounds " of the fishermen. A boat picked me 
up exhausted from fatigue and (now that the danger 
was removed) speechless from the memory of its 
horror. Those who drew me on board were my old 
mates and daily companions but they knew me no 
more than they would have known a traveller trom the 
spirit-land. My hair, which had been raven black the 
day before, was at white as you see it now. They say 
too that the whole expression of my countenance had 
changed. I told them my story they did not believe 
it. I now tell it to you and I can scarcely expect 
you to put more faith in it than did the merry fisher 
men of Lofoden." 



216 



MS. FOUND IN A BOTTLE 

OF my country and of my family I have little 
to say. Ill-usage and length of years have 
driven me from the one, and estranged me 
from the other. Hereditary wealth afforded 
me an education of no common order, and a contem 
plative turn of mind enabled me to methodise the 
stores which early study diligently garnered up. Beyond 
all things, the works of the German moralists gave me 
great delight ; not from my ill-advised admiration of 
their eloquent madness, but from the ease with which 
my habits of rigid thoughts enabled me to detect their 
falsities. I have often been reproached with the 
aridity of my genius ; a deficiency of imagination has 
been imputed to me as a crime ; and the Pyrrhonism 
of my opinions has at all times rendered me notorious. 
Indeed, a strong relish for physical philosophy has, I 
fear, tinctured my mind with a very common error of 
this age I mean the habit of referring occurrences, 
even the least susceptible of such reference, to the 
principles of that science. Upon the whole, no person 
could be less liable than myself to be led away from the 
severe precincts of truth by the ignes fatuiof superstition. 
I have thought proper to premise this much, lest the 
incredible tale I have to tell should be considered rather 
the raving of a crude imagination, than the positive 
experience of a mind to which the reveries of fancy 
have been a dead letter and a nullity. 

After many years spent in foreign travel, I sailed in 
the year 18 , from the port of Batavia, in the rich and 
populous island of Java, on a voyage to the Archipelago 
Islands. I went as passenger having no other induce 
ment than a kind of nervous restlessness which haunted 
me as a fiend. 

217 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

Our vessel was a beautiful ship of about four 
hundred tons, copper-fastened, and built at Bombay of 
Malabar teak. She was freighted with cotton-wool 
and oil, from the Laccadive Islands. We had also on 
board coir, jaggeree, ghee, cocoanuts, and a few cases 
of opium. The stowage was clumsily done, and the 
vessel consequently crank. 

We got under way with a mere breath of wind, 
and for many days stood along the eastern coast of 
Java, without any other incident to beguile the mono 
tony of our course than the occasional meeting with 
some of the small grabs of the Archipelago to which 
we were bound. 

One evening, leaning over the taffrail, I observed a 
very singular isolated cloud, to the N.W. It was 
remarkable, as well from its colour as from its being 
the first we had seen since our departure from Batavia. 
I watched it attentively until sunset, when it spread all 
at once to the eastward and westward, girting in the 
horizon with a narrow strip of vapour, and looking like 
a long line of low beach. My notice was soon after 
ward attracted by the dusky-red appearance of the 
moon, and the peculiar character of the sea. The 
latter was undergoing a rapid change, and the water 
seemed more than usually transparent. Although I 
could distinctly see the bottom, yet, heaving the lead, 
I found the ship in fifteen fathoms. The air now 
became intolerably hot, and was loaded with spiral 
exhalations similar to those arising from heated iron. 
As night came on, every breath of wind died away, 
and a more entire calm it is impossible to conceive. 
The flame of a candle burned upon the poop without 
the least perceptible motion, and a long hair, held 
between the finger and thumb, hung without the possi- 
218 



MS. FOUND IN A BOTTLE 

bility of detecting a vibration. However, as the 
captain said he could perceive no indication of danger, 
and as we were drifting in bodily to shore, he ordered 
the sails to be furled, and the anchor let go. No watch 
was set, and the crew, consisting principally of Malays, 
stretched themselves deliberately upon deck. I went 
below not without a full presentiment of evil. 
Indeed, every appearance warranted me in apprehend 
ing a Simoon. I told the captain of my fears ; but he 
paid no attention to what I said, and left me without 
deigning to give a reply. My uneasiness, however, 
prevented me from sleeping, and about midnight I 
went upon deck. As I placed my foot upon the upper 
step of the companion-ladder, I was startled by a loud, 
humming noise, like that occasioned by the rapid 
revolution of a mill-wheel, and before I could ascertain 
its meaning, I found the ship quivering to its centre. 
In the next instant a wilderness of foam hurled us 
upon our beam-ends, and, rushing over us fore and aft, 
swept the entire decks from stem to stern. 

The extreme fury of the blast proved, in a great 
measure, the salvation of the ship. Although com 
pletely water-logged, yet, as her masts had gone by the 
board, she rose, after a minute, heavily from the sea, 
and, staggering awhile beneath the immense pressure 
of the tempest, finally righted. 

By what miracle I escaped destruction it is impos 
sible to say. Stunned by the shock of the water, I 
found myself, upon recovery, jammed in between the 
stern-post and rudder. With great difficulty I regained 
my feet, and looking dizzily around, was at first struck 
with the idea of our being among breakers ; so terrific, 
beyond the wildest imagination, was the whirlpool of 
mountainous and foaming ocean within which we were 

219 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

engulfed. After a while I heard the voice of an old 
Swede, who had shipped with us at the moment of 
leaving port. I hallooed to him with all my strength, 
and presently he came reeling aft. We soon dis 
covered that we were the sole survivors of the accident. 
All on deck, with the exception of ourselves, had been 
swept overboard ; the captain and mates must have 
perished while they slept, for the cabins were deluged 
with water. Without assistance we could expect to 
do little for the security of the ship, and our exertions 
were at first paralysed by the momentary expectation 
of going down. Our cable had, of course, parted like 
pack-thread, at the first breath of the hurricane, or we 
should have been instantaneously overwhelmed. We 
scudded with frightful velocity before the sea, and the 
water made clear breaches over us. The framework of 
our stern was shattered excessively, and, in almost every 
respect, we had received considerable injury ; but to 
our extreme joy we found the pumps unchoked, and 
that we had made no great shifting of our ballast. The 
main fury of the blast had already blown over, and we 
apprehended little danger from the violence of the 
wind ; but we looked forward to its total cessation 
with dismay ; well believing, that in our shattered 
condition, we should inevitably perish in the tremendous 
swell which would ensue. But this very just appre 
hension seemed by no means likely to be soon verified. 
For five entire days and nights during which our only 
subsistence was a small quantity of jaggeree, procured 
with great difficulty from the forecastle the hulk flew 
at a rate defying computation, before rapidly succeeding 
flaws of wind, which, without equalling the first 
violence of the Simoon, were still more terrific than 
any tempest I had before encountered. Our course 

220 



MS. FOUND IN A BOTTLE 

for the first four days was, with trifling variations, S.E. 
and by S. ; and we must have run down the coast of 
New Holland. On the fifth day the cold became 
extreme, although the wind had hauled round a point 
more to the northward. The sun arose with a sickly 
yellow lustre, and clambered a very few degrees above 
the horizon emitting no decisive light. There were 
no clouds apparent, yet the wind was upon the increase, 
and blew with a fitful and unsteady fury. About noon, 
as nearly as we could guess, our attention was again 
arrested by the appearance of the sun. It gave out 
no light properly so called, but a dull and sullen glow 
without reflection, as if all its rays were polarised. 
Just before sinking within the turgid sea, its central 
fires suddenly went out, as if hurriedly extinguished 
by some unaccountable power. It was a dim, silver- 
like rim, alone, as it rushed down the unfathomable 
ocean. 

We waited in vain for the arrival of the sixth day 
that day to me has not yet arrived to the Swede 
never did arrive. Thenceforward we were enshrouded 
in pitchy darkness, so that we could not have seen an 
object at twenty paces from the ship. Eternal night 
continued to envelope us, all unrelieved by the phos 
phoric sea-brilliancy to which we had been accustomed 
in the tropics. We observed, too, that, although the 
tempest continued to rage with unabated violence, there 
was no longer to be discovered the usual appearance of 
surf, or foam, which had hitherto attended us. All 
around were horror, and thick gloom, and a black 
sweltering desert of ebony. Superstitious terror crept 
by degrees into the spirit of the old Swede, and my 
own soul was wrapt in silent wonder. We neglected 
all care of the ship as worse than useless, and securing 

221 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

ourselves as well as possible, to the stump of the mizzen- 
mast, looked out bitterly into the world of ocean. We 
had no means of calculating time, nor could we form 
any guess of our situation. We were, however, well 
aware of having made farther to the southward than 
any previous navigators, and felt great amazement at 
not meeting with the usual impediments of ice. In 
the meantime every moment threatened to be our last 
every mountainous billow hurried to overwhelm us. 
The swell surpassed anything I had imagined possible, 
and that we were not instantly buried is a miracle. 
My companion spoke of the lightness of our cargo, and 
reminded me of the excellent qualities of our ship ; 
but I could not help feeling the utter hopelessness of 
hope itself, and prepared myself gloomily for that 
death which I thought nothing could defer beyond an 
hour, as, with every knot of way the ship made, the 
swelling of the black stupendous seas became more 
dismally appalling. At times we gasped for breath at 
an elevation beyond the albatross at times became 
dizzy with the velocity of our descent into some watery 
hell, where the air grew stagnant, and no sound dis 
turbed the slumbers of the kraken. 

We were at the bottom of one of these abysses, 
when a quick scream from my companion broke fear 
fully upon the night. " See ! see ! " cried he, shrieking 
in my ears, " Almighty God ! see ! see ! As he spoke 
I became aware of a dull sullen glare of red light 
which streamed down the sides of the vast chasm 
where we lay, and threw a fitful brilliancy upon our 
deck. Casting my eyes upwards, I beheld a spectacle 
which froze the current of my blood. At a terrific 
height directly above us, and upon the very verge of 
the precipitous descent, hovered a gigantic ship, of 
222 



MS. FOUND IN A BOTTLE 

perhaps four thousand tons. Although upreared upon 
the summit of a wave more than a hundred times her 
own altitude, her apparent size still exceeded that or 
any ship of the line or East Indiaman in existence. 
Her huge hull was of a deep dingy black; unrelieved 
by any of the customary carvings of a ship. A single 
row of brass cannon protruded from her open ports, 
and dashed in from the polished surfaces the fires of innu 
merable battle-lanterns which swung to and fro about 
her rigging. But what mainly inspired us with horror 
and astonishment was that she bore up under a press of 
sail in the very teeth of that supernatural sea, and of 
that ungovernable hurricane. When we first discovered 
her, her bows were alone to be seen, as she rose slowly 
from the dim and horrible gulf beyond her. For a 
moment of intense terror she paused upon the giddy 
pinnacle as if in contemplation of her own sublimity, 
then trembled, and tottered, and came down. 

At this instant, I know not what sudden self- 
possession came over my spirit. Staggering as far aft as I 
could, I awaited fearlessly the ruin that was to over 
whelm. Our own vessel was at length ceasing from 
her struggles, and sinking with her head to the sea. 
The shock of the descending mass struck her, con 
sequently, in that portion of her frame which was 
nearly under water, and the inevitable result was to 
hurl me, with irresistible violence, upon the rigging of 
the stranger. 

As I fell, the ship hove in stays, and went about ; 
and to the confusion ensuing I attributed my escape 
from the notice of the crew. With little difficulty I 
made my way, unperceived, to the main hatchway, 
which was partially open, and soon found an oppor 
tunity of secreting myself in the hold. Why I did so 

223 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

I can hardly tell. An indefinite sense of awe, which 
at first sight of the navigators of the ship had taken 
hold of my mind, was perhaps the principle of my 
concealment. I was unwilling to trust myself with 
a race of people who had offered, to the cursory glance 
I had taken, so many points of vague novelty, doubt, 
and apprehension. I therefore thought proper to 
contrive a hiding-place in the hold. This I did by 
removing a small portion of the shifting-boards, in 
such a manner as to afford me a convenient retreat 
between the huge timbers of the ship. 

I had scarcely completed my work, when a footstep 
in the hold forced me to make use of it. A man 
passed by my place of concealment with a feeble and 
unsteady gait. I could not see his face, but had an 
opportunity of observing his general appearance. 
There was about it an evidence of great age and infir 
mity. His knees tottered beneath a load of years, and 
his entire frame quivered under the burthen. He 
muttered to himself, in a low broken tone, some words 
of a language which I could not understand, and groped 
in a corner among a pile of singular-looking instru 
ments, and decayed charts of navigation. His manner 
was a wild mixture of the peevishness of second child 
hood, and the solemn dignity of a god. He at length 
went on deck, and I saw him no more. 

***** 

A feeling, for which I have no name, has taken 
possession of my soul a sensation which will admit of 
no analysis, to which the lessons of bygone time are 
inadequate, and for which I fear futurity itself will 
offer me no key. To a mind constituted like my own, 
the latter consideration is an evil. I shall never I 
know that I shall never be satisfied with regard to 
224 



MS. FOUND IN A BOTTLE 

the nature of my conceptions. Yet it is not wonderful 
that these conceptions are indefinite, since they have 
their origin in sources so utterly novel. A new sense 
a new entity is added to my soul. 

3& jfe Ife 3f $jf 

It is long since I first trod the deck of this terrible 
ship, and the rays of my destiny are, I think, gathering 
to a focus. Incomprehensible men ! Wrapped up in 
meditations of a kind which I cannot divine, they pass 
me by unnoticed. Concealment is utter folly on my 
part, for the people will not see. It is but just now 
that I passed directly before the eyes of the mate ; it 
was no long while ago, that I ventured into the 
captain s own private cabin, and took thence the 
materials with which I write, and have written. I 
shall from time to time continue this journal. It is 
true that I may not find an opportunity of transmitting 
it to the world, but I will not fail to make the endea 
vour. At the last moment I will enclose the MS. in a 
bottle, and cast it within the sea. 

9J Tjfc $j 7ff <fi 

An incident has occurred which has given me new 
room for meditation. Are such things the operation 
of ungoverned chance ? I had ventured upon deck 
and thrown myself down, without attracting any 
notice, among a pile of ratlin-stufF and old sails, in the 
bottom of the yawl. While musing upon the singu 
larity of my fate, I unwittingly daubed with a tar 
brush the edges of a neatly-folded studding-sail which 
lay near me on a barrel. The studding-sail is now 
bent upon the ship, and the thoughtless touches of 
the brush are spread out into the word DISCOVERY. 

I have made my observations lately upon the 
structure of the vessel. Although well armed, she 

p 225 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

is not, I think, a ship of war. Her rigging, build, 
and general equipment, all negative a supposition of 
this kind. What she is not, I can easily perceive ; 
what she is, I fear it is impossible to say. I know not 
how it is, but in scrutinising her strange model and 
singular cast of spars, her huge size and overgrown 
suits of canvas, her severely simple bow and antiquated 
stern, there will occasionally flash across my mind a 
sensation of familiar things, and there is always mixed 
up with such indistinct shadows of recollection, an 
unaccountable memory of old foreign chronicles and 
ages long ago. . . . 

I have been looking at the timbers of the ship. 
She is built of a material to which I am a stranger. 
There is a peculiar character about the wood which 
strikes me as rendering it unfit for the purpose to 
which it has been applied. I mean its extreme 
porousness, considered independently of the worm-eaten 
condition which is a consequence of navigation in these 
seas, and apart from the rottenness attendant upon age. 
It will appear perhaps an observation somewhat over- 
curious, but this would have every characteristic of 
Spanish oak, if Spanish oak were distended by any 
unnatural means. 

In reading the above sentence, a curious apothegm of 
an old weather-beaten Dutch navigator comes full upon 
my recollection. " It is as sure," he was wont to say, 
when any doubt was entertained of his veracity, " as 
sure as there is a sea where the ship itself will grow in 
bulk like the living body of the seaman." . . . 

About an hour ago, I made bold to trust myself 
among a group of the crew. They paid me no manner 
of attention, and, although I stood in the very midst of 
them all, seemed utterly unconscious of my presence. 
226 



MS. FOUND IN A BOTTLE 

Like the one I had at first seen in the hold, they all 
bore about them the marks of a hoary old age. Their 
knees trembled with infirmity ; their shoulders were 
bent double with decrepitude ; their shrivelled skins 
rattled in the wind ; their voices were low, tremulous, 
and broken ; their eyes glistened with the rheum of 
years ; and their grey hairs streamed terribly in the 
tempest. Around them, on every part of the deck, lay 
scattered mathematical instruments of the most quaint 
and obsolete construction. . . . 

I mentioned, some time ago, the bending of a 
studding-sail. From that period, the ship, being 
thrown dead off the wind, has continued her terrific 
course due south, with every rag of canvas packed upon 
her, from her truck to her lower-studding-sail booms, 
and rolling every moment her top-gallant yard-arms 
into the most appalling hell of water which it can enter 
into the mind of man to imagine. I have just left the 
deck, where I found it impossible to maintain a footing, 
although the crew seem to experience little incon 
venience. It appears to me a miracle of miracles that 
our enormous bulk is not swallowed up at once and for 
ever. We are surely doomed to hover continually upon 
the brink of eternity, without taking a final plunge into 
the abyss. From billows a thousand times more stupen 
dous than any I have ever seen, we glide away with the 
facility of the arrowy sea-gull ; and the colossal waters 
rear their heads above us like demons of the deep, but 
like demons confined to simple threats, and forbidden 
to destroy. I am led to attribute these frequent escapes 
to the only natural cause which can account for such 
effect. I must suppose the ship to be within the 
influence of some strong current, or impetuous 
undertow. . . . 

227 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

I have seen the captain face to face, and in his own 
cabin but, as I expected, he paid me no attention. 
Although in his appearance there is, to a casual 
observer, nothing which might bespeak him more or 
less than man, still, a feeling of irrepressible reverence 
and awe mingled with the sensation of wonder with 
which I regarded him. In stature, he is nearly my own 
height ; that is, about five feet eight inches. He is of 
a well-knit and compact frame of body, neither robust 
nor remarkable otherwise. But it is the singularity of 
the expression which reigns upon the face it is the 
intense, the wonderful, the thrilling evidence of old age 
so utter, so extreme, which excites within my spirit a 
sense a sentiment ineffable. His forehead, although 
little wrinkled, seems to bear upon it the stamp of a 
myriad of years. His grey hairs are records of the past, 
and his greyer eyes are sybils of the future. The cabin 
floor was thickly strewn with strange, iron-clasped 
folios, and mouldering instruments of science, and 
obsolete long-forgotten charts. His head was bowed 
down upon his hands, and he pored, with a fiery, 
unquiet eye, over a paper which I took to be a 
commission, and which, at all events, bore the 
signature of a monarch. He murmured to himself 
as did the first seaman whom I saw in the hold some 
low peevish syllables of a foreign tongue ; and although 
the speaker was close at my elbow, his voice seemed to 
reach my ears from the distance of a mile. . . . 

The ship and all in it are imbued with the spirit of 
Eld. The crew glide to and fro like the ghosts of 
buried centuries ; their eyes have an eager and uneasy 
meaning ; and when their figures fall athwart my path in 
the wild glare of the battle-lanterns, I feel as I have never 
felt before, although I have been all my life a dealer in 
228 



MS. FOUND IN A BOTTLE 

antiquities, and have imbibed the shadows of fallen 
columns at Balbec, and Tadmor, and Persepolis, until 
my very soul has become a ruin. . . . 

When I look around me, I feel ashamed of my 
former apprehension. If I trembled at the blast which 
has hitherto attended us, shall I not stand aghast at a 
warring of wind and ocean, to convey any idea of 
which, the words tornado and simoon are trivial and 
ineffective ? All in the immediate vicinity of the ship 
is the blackness of eternal night, and a chaos of foamless 
water ; but, about a league on either side of us, may be 
seen, indistinctly and at intervals, stupendous ramparts 
of ice, towering away into the desolate sky, and looking 
like the walls of the universe. . . . 

As I imagined, the ship proves to be in a current 
if that appellation can properly be given to a tide 
which, howling and shrieking by the white ice, 
thunders on to the southward with a velocity like the 
headlong dashing of a cataract. . . . 

To conceive the horror of my sensations is, I pre 
sume, utterly impossible ; yet a curiosity to penetrate 
the mysteries of these awful regions predominates even 
over my despair, and will reconcile me to the most 
hideous aspect of death. It is evident that we are 
hurrying onward to some exciting knowledge some 
never-to-be-imparted secret, whose attainment is 
destruction. Perhaps this current leads us to the 
southern pole itself. It must be confessed that a 
supposition apparently so wild has every probability in 
its favour. . . . 

The crew pace the deck with unquiet and tremulous 
step ; but there is upon their countenance an expres 
sion more of the eagerness of hope than the apathy of 
despair. 

229 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

In the meantime the wind is still in our poop, and, 
as we carry a crowd of canvas, the ship is at times 
lifted bodily from out the sea ! Oh, horror upon 
horror ! the ice opens suddenly to the right, and to 
the left, and we are whirling dizzily, in immense 
concentric circles, round and round the borders of a 
gigantic amphitheatre, the summit of whose walls is 
lost in the darkness and the distance. But little time 
will be left me to ponder upon my destiny ! The 
circles rapidly grow small we are plunging madly 
within the grasp of the whirlpool and amid a 
roaring, and bellowing, and thundering of ocean and 

tempest, the ship is quivering oh God ! and 

going down ! 

NOTE 

The "MS. Found in a Bottle" was originally published in 1831, 
and it was not until many years afterwards that I became acquainted 
with the maps of Mercator, in which the ocean is represented as 
rushing, by four mouths, into the (northern) Polar Gulf, to be 
absorbed into the bowels of the earth ; the Pole itself being repre 
sented by a black rock, towering to a prodigious height, 



230 



THE FACTS IN THE CASE 
OF M. VALDEMAR 

OF course I shall not pretend to consider it any 
matter for wonder, that the extraordinary 
case of M. Valdemar has excited discussion. 
It would have been a miracle had it not 
especially under the circumstances. Through the 
desire of all parties concerned, to keep the affair from 
the public, at least for the present, or until we had 
farther opportunities for investigation through our 
endeavours to effect this a garbled or exaggerated 
account made its way into society, and became the 
source of many unpleasant misrepresentations, and, very 
naturally, of a great deal of disbelief. 

It is now rendered necessary that I give the facts 
as far as I comprehend them myself. They are, suc 
cinctly, these : 

My attention, for the last three years, had been 
repeatedly drawn to the subject of Mesmerism ; and 
about nine months ago, it occurred to me, quite 
suddenly, that in the series of experiments made 
hitherto, there had been a very remarkable and most 
unaccountable omission : no person had as yet been 
mesmerised in articulo mortis. It remained to be seen, 
first, whether, in such condition, there existed in the 
patient any susceptibility to the magnetic influence ; 
secondly, whether, if any existed, it was impaired or 
increased by the condition ; thirdly, to what extent, or 
for how long a period, the encroachments of Death 
might be arrested by the process. There were other 
points to be ascertained, but these most excited my 
curiosity the last in especial, from the immensely 
important character of its consequences. 

231 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

In looking around me for some subject by whose 
means I might test these particulars, I was brought to 
think of my friend, M. Ernest Valdemar, the well-known 
compiler of the "Bibliotheca Forensica," and author 
(under the nom de plume of Issachar Marx) of the Polish 
versions of "Wallenstein" and "Gargantua." M. Valde 
mar, who has resided principally at Harlem, N.Y., since 
the year 1839, is (or was) particularly noticeable for 
the extreme spareness of his person his lower limbs 
much resembling those of John Randolph ; and, also, 
for the whiteness of his whiskers, in violent contrast to 
the blackness of his hair the latter, in consequence, 
being very generally mistaken for a wig. His tem 
perament was markedly nervous, and rendered him a 
good subject for mesmeric experiment. On two or 
three occasions I had put him to sleep with little 
difficulty, but was disappointed in other results which 
his peculiar constitution had naturally led me to 
anticipate. His will was at no period positively, or 
thoroughly, under my control, and in regard to clair- 
voyance^ I could accomplish with him nothing to be 
relied upon. I always attributed my failure at these 
points to the disordered state of his health. For some 
months previous to my becoming acquainted with him, 
his physicians had declared him in a confirmed phthisis. 
It was his custom, indeed, to speak calmly of his 
approaching dissolution, as of a matter neither to be 
avoided nor regretted. 

When the ideas to which I have alluded first 
occurred to me, it was of course very natural that I 
should think of M. Valdemar. I knew the steady 
philosophy of the man too well to apprehend any 
scruples from him ; and he had no relatives in America 
who would be likely to interfere. I spoke to him 
232 



THE CASE OF M. VALDEMAR 

frankly upon the subject ; and, to my surprise, his 
interest seemed vividly excited. I say to my surprise ; 
for, although he had always yielded his person freely to 
my experiments, he had never before given me any 
tokens of sympathy with what I did. His disease was 
of that character which would admit of exact calcula 
tion in respect to the epoch of its termination in death ; 
and it was finally arranged between us that he would 
send for me about twenty-four hours before the period 
announced by his physicians as that of his decease. 

It is now rather more than seven months since I 
received, from M. Valdemar himself, the subjoined 
note : 

MY DEAR P 

You may as well come now. D and F are agreed that I 

cannot hold out beyond to-morrow midnight ; and I think they have 
hit the time very nearly. 

VALDEMAR 

I received this note within half an hour after it was 
written, and in fifteen minutes more I was in the dying 
man s chamber. I had not seen him for ten days, and 
was appalled by the fearful alteration which the brief 
interval had wrought in him. His face wore a leaden 
hue ; the eyes were utterly lustreless ; and the emacia 
tion was so extreme that the skin had been broken 
through by the cheek-bones. His expectoration was 
excessive. The pulse was barely perceptible. He 
retained, nevertheless, in a very remarkable manner, 
both his mental power and a certain degree of physical 
strength. He spoke with distinctness took some 
palliative medicines without aid and, when I entered 
the room, was occupied in pencilling memoranda in 
a pocket-book. He was propped up in the bed by 
pillows. Drs. D and F were in attendance. 

2 33 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

After pressing Valdemar s hand, I took these 
gentlemen aside, and obtained from them a minute 
account of the patient s condition. The left lung had 
been for eighteen months in a semi-osseous or cartila 
ginous state, and was, of course, entirely useless for 
all purposes of vitality. The right, in its upper portion, 
was also partially, if not thoroughly, ossified, while the 
lower region was merely a mass of purulent tubercles, 
running one into another. Several extensive perfora 
tions existed ; and, at one point, permanent adhesion 
to the ribs had taken place. These appearances in the 
right lobe were of comparatively recent date. The 
ossification had proceeded with very unusual rapidity ; 
no sign of it had been discovered a month before, and 
the adhesion had only been observed during the three 
previous days. Independently of the phthisis, the 
patient was suspected of aneurism of the aorta ; but on 
this point the osseous symptoms rendered an exact 
diagnosis impossible. It was the opinion of both physi 
cians that M. Valdemar would die about midnight on 
the morrow (Sunday). It was then seven o clock on 
Saturday evening. 

On quitting the invalid s bedside to hold conversa 
tion with myself, Doctors D and F had bidden 

him a final farewell. It had not been their intention 
to return ; but, at my request, they agreed to look in 
upon the patient about ten the next night. 

When they had gone, I spoke freely with M. 
Valdemar on the subject of his approaching dissolution, 
as well as, more particularly, of the experiment proposed. 
He still professed himself quite willing and even anxious 
to have it made, and urged me to commence it at 
once. A male and a female nurse were in attendance ; 
but I did not feel myself altogether at liberty to engage 

234 



THE CASE OF M. VALDEMAR 

in a task of this character with no more reliable wit 
nesses than these people, in case of sudden accident, 
might prove. I therefore postponed operations until 
about eight the next night, when the arrival of a 
medical student with whom I had some acquaintance 

(Mr. Theodore L 1), relieved me from farther 

embarrassment. It had been my design, originally, to 
wait for the physicians ; but I was induced to proceed, 
first, by the urgent entreaties of M. Valdemar, and 
secondly, by my conviction that I had not a moment 
to lose, as he was evidently sinking fast. 

Mr. L 1 was so kind as to accede to my desire 

that he would take notes of all that occurred ; and it 
is from his memoranda that what I now have to relate 
is, for the most part, either condensed or copied 
verbatim. 

It wanted about five minutes of eight when, 
taking the patient s hand, I begged him to state, as 

distinctly as he could, to Mr. L 1, whether he 

(M. Valdemar) was entirely willing that I should make 
the experiment of mesmerising him in his then 
condition. 

He replied feebly, yet quite audibly, " Yes, I wish 
to be mesmerised " adding immediately afterwards, " I 
fear you have deferred it too long." 

While he spoke thus, I commenced the passes 
which I had already found most effectual in subduing 
him. He was evidently influenced with the first 
lateral stroke of my hand across his forehead ; but 
although I exerted all my powers, no farther perceptible 
effect was induced until some minutes after ten o clock, 

when Doctors D and F called, according to 

appointment. I explained to them, in a few words, 
what I designed, and as they opposed no objection, 

235 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

saying that the patient was already in the death agony, 
I proceeded without hesitation exchanging, however, 
the lateral passes for downward ones, and directing my 
gaze entirely into the right eye of the sufferer. 

By this time his pulse was imperceptible and his 
breathing was stertorous, and at intervals of half a 
minute. 

This condition was nearly unaltered for a quarter of 
an hour. At the expiration of this period, however, a 
natural although a very deep sigh escaped the bosom 
of the dying man, and the stertorous breathing ceased 
that is to say, its stertorousness was no longer 
apparent ; the intervals were undiminished. The 
patient s extremities were of an icy coldness. 

At five minutes before eleven I perceived unequi 
vocal signs of the mesmeric influence. The glassy roll 
of the eye was changed for that expression of uneasy 
inward examination which is never seen except in cases 
of sleep-waking, and which it is quite impossible to 
mistake. With a few rapid lateral passes I made the 
lids quiver, as in incipient sleep, and with a few more 
I closed them altogether. I was not satisfied, however, 
with this, but continued the manipulations vigorously, 
and with the fullest exertion of the will, until I had 
completely stiffened the limbs of the slumberer, after 
placing them in a seemingly easy position. The legs 
were at full length ; the arms were nearly so, and 
reposed on the bed at a moderate distance from the 
loins. The head was very slightly elevated. 

When I had accomplished this, it was fully mid 
night, and I requested the gentlemen present to examine 
M. Valdemar s condition. After a few experiments, 
they admitted him to be in an unusually perfect state 
of mesmeric trance. The curiosity of both the phy- 
236 



THE CASE OF M. VALDEMAR 

sicians was greatly excited. Dr. D resolved at 

once to remain with the patient all night, while Dr. 
F took leave with a promise to return at day 
break. Mr. L 1 and the nurses remained. 

We left M. Valdemar entirely undisturbed until 
about three o clock in the morning, when I approached 
him and found him in precisely the same condition as 

when Dr. F went away that is to say, he lay in 

the same position ; the pulse was imperceptible ; the 
breathing was gentle (scarcely noticeable, unless through 
the application of a mirror to the lips) ; the eyes were 
closed naturally ; and the limbs were as rigid and as 
cold as marble. Still, the general appearance was 
certainly not that of death. 

As I approached M. Valdemar I made a kind of 
half effort to influence his right arm into pursuit of my 
own, as I passed the latter gently to and fro above his 
person. In such experiments with this patient I had 
never perfectly succeeded before, and assuredly I had 
little thought of succeeding now ; but to my astonish 
ment, his arm very readily, although feebly, followed 
every direction I assigned it with mine. I determined 
to hazard a few words of conversation. 

" M. Valdemar," I said, "are you asleep?" He 
made no answer, but I perceived a tremor about the 
lips, and was thus induced to repeat the question, again 
and again. At its third repetition, his whole frame 
was agitated by a very slight shivering ; the eyelids 
unclosed themselves so far as to display a white line 
of the ball ; the lips moved sluggishly, and from be 
tween them, in a barely audible whisper, issued the 
words : 

" Yes ; asleep now. Do not wake me ! let me 
die so ! " 

2 37 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

I here felt the limbs and found them as rigid as 
ever. The right arm, as before, obeyed the direction 
of my hand. I questioned the sleep-waker again : 

" Do you still feel pain in the breast, M. 
Valdemar ? " 

The answer now was immediate, but even less 
audible than before : 

" No pain I am dying." 

I did not think it advisable to disturb him farther 
just then, and nothing more was said or done until the 

arrival of Dr. F , who came a little before sunrise, 

and expressed unbounded astonishment at finding the 
patient still alive. After feeling the pulse and applying 
a mirror to the lips, he requested me to speak to the 
sleep-waker again. I did so, saying : 

" M. Valdemar, do you still sleep ? " 

As before, some minutes elapsed ere a reply was 
made ; and during the interval the dying man seemed 
to be collecting his energies to speak. At my fourth 
repetition of the question, he said very faintly, almost 
inaudibly : 

" Yes ; still asleep dying." 

It was now the opinion, or rather the wish, of the 
physicians, that M. Valdemar should be suffered to 
remain undisturbed in his present apparently tranquil 
condition, until death should supervene and this, it 
was generally agreed, must now take place within a few 
minutes. I concluded, however, to speak to him once 
more, and merely repeated my previous question. 

While I spoke, there came a marked change over the 
countenance of the sleep-waker. The eyes rolled them 
selves slowly open, the pupils disappearing upwardly ; 
the skin generally assumed a cadaverous hue, resembling 
not so much parchment as white paper ; and the circular 

233 



THE CASE OF M. VALDEMAR 

hectic spots which, hitherto, had been strongly defined 
in the centre of each cheek, went out at once. I use 
this expression, because the suddenness of their departure 
put me in mind of nothing so much as the extinguish 
ment of a candle by a pufF of the breath. The upper 
lip, at the same time, writhed itself away from the teeth, 
which it had previously covered completely ; while 
the lower jaw fell with an audible jerk, leaving the 
mouth widely extended, and disclosing in full view the 
swollen and blackened tongue. I presume that no 
member of the party then present had been unaccus 
tomed to death-bed horrors ; but so hideous beyond 
conception was the appearance of M. Valdemar at this 
moment, that there was a general shrinking back from 
the region of the bed. 

I now feel that I have reached a point of this narra 
tive at which every reader will be startled into posi 
tive disbelief. It is my business, however, simply to 
proceed. 

There was no longer the faintest sign of vitality in 
M. Valdemar ; and concluding him to be dead, we 
were consigning him to the charge of the nurses, when 
a strong vibratory motion was observable in the tongue. 
This continued for perhaps a minute. At the expiration 
of this period, there issued from the distended and 
motionless jaws a voice such as it would be madness 
in me to attempt describing. There are, indeed, two 
or three epithets which might be considered as applic 
able to it in parts ; I might say, for example, that the 
sound was harsh, and broken, and hollow ; but the 
hideous whole is indescribable, for the simple reason 
that no similar sounds have ever jarred upon the ear 
of humanity. There were two particulars, nevertheless, 
which I thought then, and still think, might fairly be 

2 39 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

stated as characteristic of the intonation as well adapted 
to convey some idea of its unearthly peculiarity. In 
the first place, the voice seemed to reach our ears at 
least mine from a vast distance, or from some deep 
cavern within the earth. In the second place, it 
impressed me (I fear, indeed, that it will be impossible 
to make myself comprehended) as gelatinous or glutinous 
matters impress the sense of touch. 

I have spoken both of " sound " and of " voice." 
I mean to say that the sound was one of distinct of 
even wonderfully, thrillingly distinct syllabification. 
M. Valdemar spoke obviously in reply to the question 
I had propounded to him a few minutes before. I had 
asked him, it will be remembered, if he still slept. 
He now said : 

" Yes ; no ; I have been sleeping and now now 
/ am dead" 

No person present even affected to deny, or at 
tempted to repress, the unutterable, shuddering horror 
which these few words, thus uttered, were so well 

calculated to convey. Mr. L 1 (the student) 

swooned. The nurses immediately left the chamber, 
and could not be induced to return. My own im 
pressions I would not pretend to render intelligible to 
the reader. For nearly an hour, we busied ourselves, 
silently without the utterance of a word in en 
deavours to revive Mr. L 1. When he came to 

himself, we addressed ourselves again to an investigation 
of M. Valdemar s condition. 

It remained in all respects as I have last described 
it, with the exception that the mirror no longer 
afforded evidence of respiration. An attempt to draw 
blood from the arm failed. I should mention, too, 
that this limb was no farther subject to my will. 
240 



THE CASE OF M. VALDEMAR 

I endeavoured in vain to make it follow the direction 
of my hand. The only real indication, indeed, of the 
mesmeric influence, was now found in the vibratory 
movement of the tongue, whenever I addressed M. 
Valdemar a question. He seemed to be making an 
effort to reply, but had no longer sufficient volition. 
To queries put to him by any other person than myself 
he seemed utterly insensible although I endeavoured 
to place each member of the company in mesmeric 
rapport with him. I believe that I have now related 
all that is necessary to an understanding of the sleep- 
waker s state at this epoch. Other nurses were 
procured ; and at ten o clock I left the house in com 
pany with the two physicians and Mr. L 1. 

In the afternoon we all called again to see the 
patient. His condition remained precisely the same. 
We had now some discussion as to the propriety and 
feasibility of awakening him ; but we had little diffi 
culty in agreeing that no good purpose would be served 
by so doing. It was evident that, so far, death (or 
what is usually termed death) had been arrested by the 
mesmeric process. It seemed clear to us all that to 
awaken M. Valdemar would be merely to insure his 
instant, or at least his speedy, dissolution. 

From this period until the close of last week an 
interval of nearly seven months we continued to make 
daily calls at M. Valdemar s house, accompanied, now 
and then, by medical and other friends. All this time 
the sleep-waker remained exactly as I have last described 
him. The nurses attentions were continual. 

It was on Friday last that we finally resolved to 
make the experiment of awakening, or attempting 
to awaken him ; and it is the (perhaps) unfortunate 
result of this latter experiment which has given rise to 

Q 241 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

so much discussion in private circles to so much 
of what I cannot help thinking unwarranted popular 
feeling. 

For the purpose of relieving M. Valdemar from the 
mesmeric trance, I made use of the customary passes. 
These, for a time, were unsuccessful. The first in 
dication of revival was afforded by a partial descent 
of the iris. It was observed, as especially remark 
able, that this lowering of the pupil was accompanied 
by the profuse out-flowing of a yellowish ichor (from 
beneath the lids) of a pungent and highly offensive 
odour. 

It was now suggested that I should attempt to 
influence the patient s arm, as heretofore. I made the 

attempt and failed. Dr. F then intimated a desire 

to have me put a question. I did so, as follows : 

" M. Valdemar, can you explain to us what are 
your feelings or wishes now ? " 

There was an instant return of the hectic circles 
on the cheeks ; the tongue quivered, or rather rolled 
violently in the mouth (although the jaws and lips 
remained rigid as before) ; and at length the same 
hideous voice which I have already described, broke 
forth : 

" For God s sake ! quick ! quick ! put me to 
sleep or, quick ! waken me ! quick ! / say to you 
that I am dead I" 

I was thoroughly unnerved, and for an instant re 
mained undecided what to do. At first I made an 
endeavour to recompose the patient ; but, failing in 
this through total abeyance of the will, I retraced my 
steps and as earnestly struggled to awaken him. In this 
attempt I soon saw that I should be successful or at 
least I soon fancied that my success would be complete 
242 



THE CASE OF M. VALDEMAR 

and I am sure that all in the room were prepared to 
see the patient awaken. 

For what really occurred, however, it is quite 
impossible that any human being could have been 
prepared. 

As I rapidly made the mesmeric passes, amid ejacu 
lations of " dead ! dead ! " absolutely bursting from the 
tongue and not from the lips of the sufferer, his whole 
frame at once within the space of a single minute, or 
even less, shrunk crumbled absolutely rotted away 
beneath my hands. Upon the bed, before that whole 
company, there lay a nearly liquid mass of loathsome 
of detestable putridity. 



Z43 



RUE MORGUE 

f ^HE mental features discoursed of as the 
analytical are, in themselves, but little sus 
ceptible of analysis. We appreciate them 
"^ only in their effects. We know of them, 
among other things, that they are always to their 
possessor, when inordinately possessed, a source of the 
liveliest enjoyment. As the strong man exults in his 
physical ability, delighting in such exercises as call his 
muscles into action, so glories the analyst in that moral 
activity which disentangles. He derives pleasure from 
even the most trivial occupations bringing his talents 
into play. He is fond of enigmas, of conundrums, of 
hieroglyphics ; exhibiting in his solutions of each a 
degree of acumen which appears to the ordinary appre 
hension preternatural. His results, brought about by 
the very soul and essence of method, have, in truth, the 
whole air of intuition. The faculty of re-solution is 
possibly much invigorated by mathematical study, and 
especially by that highest branch of it which, unjustly, 
and merely on account of its retrograde operations, has 
been called, as if par excellence^ analysis. Yet to calcu 
late is not in itself to analyse. A chess-player, for 
example, does the one without effort at the other. It 
follows that the game of chess, in its effects upon 
mental character, is greatly misunderstood. I am not 
now writing a treatise, but simply prefacing a some 
what peculiar narrative by observations very much at 
random ; I will, therefore, take occasion to assert that 
the higher powers of the reflective intellect are more 
decidedly and more usefully tasked by the unostenta 
tious game of draughts than by all the elaborate 

2 45 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

frivolity of chess. In this latter, where the pieces have 
different and bizarre motions, with various and variable 
values, what is only complex is mistaken (a not unusual 
error) for what is profound. The attention is here called 
powerfully into play. If it flag for an instant, an over 
sight is committed, resulting in injury or defeat. The 
possible moves being not only manifold but involute, 
the chances of such oversights are multiplied ; and in 
nine cases out of ten it is the more concentrative rather 
than the more acute player who conquers. In draughts, 
on the contrary, where the moves are unique and have 
but little variation, the probabilities of inadvertence are 
diminished, and the mere attention being left com 
paratively unemployed, what advantages are obtained 
by either party are obtained by superior acumen. To 
be less abstract Let us suppose a game of draughts 
where the pieces are reduced to four kings, and where, 
of course, no oversight is to be expected. It is 
obvious that here the victory can be decided (the 
players being at all equal) only by some recherche 
movement, the result of some exertion of the intellect. 
Deprived of ordinary resources, the analyst throws 
himself into the spirit of his opponent, identifies him 
self therewith, and not unfrequently sees thus, at a 
glance, the sole methods (sometimes indeed absurdly 
simple ones) by which he may seduce into error or 
hurry into miscalculation. 

Whist has long been noted for its influence upon 
what is termed the calculating power ; and men of 
the highest order of intellect have been known to take 
an apparently unaccountable delight in it, while eschew 
ing chess as frivolous. Beyond doubt there is nothing 
of a similar nature so greatly tasking the faculty of 
analysis. The best chess-player in Christendom may 
246 



THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE 

be little more than the best player of chess ; but profi 
ciency in whist implies capacity for success in all these 
more important undertakings where mind struggles 
with mind. When I say proficiency, I mean that 
perfection in the game which includes a comprehension 
of all the sources whence legitimate advantage may be 
derived. These are not only manifold, but multiform, 
and lie frequently among recesses of thought altogether 
inaccessible to the ordinary understanding. To observe 
attentively is to remember distinctly ; and, so far, the 
concentrative chess-player will do very well at whist ; 
while the rules of Hoyle (themselves based upon the 
mere mechanism of the game) are sufficiently and 
generally comprehensible. Thus to have a retentive 
memory, and to proceed by " the book," are points 
commonly regarded as the sum total of good playing. 
But it is in matters beyond the limits of mere rule 
that the skill of the analyst is evinced. He makes, 
in silence, a host of observations and inferences. So, 
perhaps, do his companions ; and the difference in the 
extent of the information obtained, lies not so much in 
the validity of the inference as in the quality of the 
observation. The necessary knowledge is that of what 
to observe. Our player confines himself not at all ; 
nor, because the game is the object, does he reject 
deductions from things external to the game. He 
examines the countenance of his partner, comparing it 
carefully with that of each of his opponents. He con 
siders the mode of assorting the cards in each hand ; 
often counting trump by trump, and honour by honour, 
through the glances bestowed by their holders upon 
each. He notes every variation of face as the play 
progresses, gathering a fund of thought from the 
differences in the expression of certainty, of surprise, 

247 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

of triumph, or chagrin. From the manner of gathering 
up a trick he judges whether the person taking it can 
make another in the suit. He recognises what is 
played through feint, by the air with which it is 
thrown upon the table. A casual or inadvertent word; 
the accidental dropping or turning of a card, with the 
accompanying anxiety or carelessness in regard to its 
concealment ; the counting of the tricks, with the 
order of their arrangement ; embarrassment, hesita 
tion, eagerness or trepidation all afford, to his 
apparently intuitive perception, indications of the true 
state of affairs. The first two or three rounds having 
been played, he is in full possession of the contents of 
each hand, and thenceforward puts down his cards 
with as absolute a precision of purpose as if the rest 
of the party had turned outward the faces of their 
own. 

The analytical power should not be confounded 
with simple ingenuity ; for while the analyst is neces 
sarily ingenious, the ingenious man is often remarkably 
incapable of analysis. The consecutive or combining 
power, by which ingenuity is usually manifested, and 
to which the phrenologists (I believe erroneously) have 
assigned a separate organ, supposing it a primitive 
faculty, has been so frequently seen in those whose 
intellect bordered otherwise upon idiocy, as to have 
attracted general observation among writers on morals. 
Between ingenuity and the analytical ability there exists 
a difference far greater, indeed, than that between the 
fancy and the imagination, but of a character very 
strictly analogous. It will be found, in fact, that the 
ingenious are always fanciful, and the truly imaginative 
never otherwise than analytic. 

The narrative which follows will appear to the 
248 



THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE 

reader somewhat in the light of a commentary upon 
the propositions just advanced. 

Residing in Paris during the spring and part of the 
summer of 18 , I there became acquainted with a 
Monsieur C. Auguste Dupin. This young gentleman 
was of an excellent indeed of an illustrious family, but, 
by a variety of untoward events, had been reduced to 
such poverty that the energy of his character succumbed 
beneath it, and he ceased to bestir himself in the world, 
or to care for the retrieval of his fortunes. By courtesy 
of his creditors, there still remained in his possession a 
small remnant of his patrimony ; and, upon the income 
arising from this, he managed, by means of a rigorous 
economy, to procure the necessaries of life, without 
troubling himself about its superfluities. Books, indeed, 
were his sole luxuries, and in Paris these are easily 
obtained. 

Our first meeting was at an obscure library in the 
Rue Montmartre, where the accident of our both being 
in search of the same very rare and very remarkable 
volume, brought us into closer communion. We saw 
each other again and again. I was deeply interested in 
the little family history which he detailed to me with 
all that candour which a Frenchman indulges whenever 
mere self is the theme. I was astonished, too, at the 
vast extent of his reading ; and, above all, I felt my 
soul enkindled within me by the wild fervour and the 
vivid freshness of his imagination. Seeking in Paris 
the objects I then sought, I felt that the society of such 
a man would be to me a treasure beyond price ; and 
this feeling I frankly confided to him. It was at length 
arranged that we should live together during my stay 
in the city ; and as my worldly circumstances were 
somewhat less embarrassed than his own, I was permitted 

249 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

to be at the expense of renting, and furnishing in a 
style which suited the rather fantastic gloom of our 
common temper, a time-eaten and grotesque mansion, 
long deserted through superstitions into which we did 
not inquire, and tottering to its fall in a retired and 
desolate portion of the Faubourg St. Germain. 

Had the routine of our life at this place been known 
to the world, we should have been regarded as madmen 
although, perhaps, as madmen of a harmless nature. 
Our seclusion was perfect. We admitted no visitors. 
Indeed the locality of our retirement had been carefully 
kept a secret from my own former associates ; and it 
had been many years since Dupin had ceased to know 
or be known in Paris. We existed within ourselves 
alone. 

It was a freak of fancy in my friend (for what else 
shall I call it ?) to be enamoured of the Night for her 
own sake ; and into this bizarrerie, as into all his others, 
I quietly fell ; giving myself up to his wild whims 
with a perfect abandon. The sable divinity would not 
herself dwell with us always ; but we could counterfeit 
her presence. At the first dawn of the morning we 
closed all the massy shutters of our old building ; lighted 
a couple of tapers which, strongly perfumed, threw out 
only the ghastliest and feeblest of rays. By the aid of 
these we then busied our souls in dreams reading, 
writing, or conversing, until warned by the clock of the 
advent of the true Darkness. Then we sallied forth into 
the streets, arm in arm, continuing the topics of the 
day, or roaming far and wide until a late hour, seeking, 
amid the wild lights and shadows of the populous city, 
that infinity of mental excitement which quiet observa 
tion can afford. 

At such times I could not help remarking and 
250 



THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE 

admiring (although from his rich ideality I had been 
prepared to expect it) a peculiar analytic ability in 
Dupin. He seemed, too, to take an eager delight in 
its exercise if not exactly in its display and did not 
hesitate to confess the pleasure thus derived. He 
boasted to me, with a low chuckling laugh, that most 
men, in respect to himself, wore windows in their 
bosoms, and was wont to follow up such assertions by 
direct and very startling proofs of his intimate know 
ledge of my own. His manner at these moments was 
frigid and abstract ; his eyes were vacant in expression ; 
while his voice, usually a rich tenor, rose into a treble 
which would have sounded petulantly but for the 
deliberateness and entire distinctness of the enunciation. 
Observing him in these moods, I often dwelt medita 
tively upon the old philosophy of the Bi-Part Soul, and 
amused myself with the fancy of a double Dupin the 
creative and the resolvent. 

Let it not be supposed, from what I have just 
said, that I am detailing any mystery, or penning any 
romance. What I have described in the Frenchman, 
was merely the result of an excited, or perhaps of a 
diseased intelligence. But of the character of his 
remarks at the periods in question an example will best 
convey the idea. 

We were strolling one night down a long dirty 
street, in the vicinity of the Palais Royal. Being both, 
apparently, occupied with thought, neither of us had 
spoken a syllable for fifteen minutes at least. All at 
once Dupin broke forth with these words : 

" He is a very little fellow, that s true, and would do 
better for the Theatre des Varietes" 

" There can be no doubt of that," I replied un 
wittingly, and not at first observing (so much had I 

251 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

been absorbed in reflection) the extraordinary manner 
in which the speaker had chimed in with my medita 
tions. In an instant afterwards I recollected myself, 
and my astonishment was profound. 

" Dupin," said I, gravely, " this is beyond my com 
prehension. I do not hesitate to say that I am amazed, 
and can scarcely credit my senses. How was it possible 

you should know I was thinking of ? : Here I 

paused, to ascertain beyond a doubt whether he really 
knew of whom I thought. 

" of Chantilly," said he, " why do you pause ? 

You were remarking to yourself that his diminutive 
figure unfitted him for tragedy." 

This was precisely what had formed the subject of 
my reflections. Chantilly was a quondam cobbler of 
the Rue St. Denis, who, becoming stage-mad, had 
attempted the role of Xerxes, in Crebillon s tragedy 
so called, and been notoriously pasquinaded for his 
pains. 

" Tell me, for Heaven s sake," I exclaimed, " the 
method if method there is by which you have been 
enabled to fathom my soul in this matter." In fact I 
was even more startled than I would have been willing 
to express. 

" It was the fruiterer," replied my friend, " who 
brought you to the conclusion that the mender of soles 
was not of sufficient height for Xerxes et id genus 
omne." 

" The fruiterer ! you astonish me I know no 
fruiterer whomsoever." 

" The man who ran up against you as we entered 
the street it may have been fifteen minutes ago." 

I now remembered that, in fact, a fruiterer, carry 
ing upon his head a large basket of apples, had nearly 
252 



THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE 

thrown me down, by accident, as we passed from the 

Rue C into the thoroughfare where we stood ; but 

what this had to do with Chantilly I could not possibly 
understand. 

There was not a particle of charlatanerie about 
Dupin. " I will explain," he said, " and that you may 
comprehend all clearly, we will first retrace the course 
of your meditations, from the moment in which I spoke 
to you until that of the rencontre with the fruiterer in 
question. The larger links of the chain run thus 
Chantilly, Orion, Dr. Nichols, Epicurus, Stereotomy, 
the street stones, the fruiterer." 

There are few persons who have not, at some period 
of their lives, amused themselves in retracing the steps 
by which particular conclusions of their own minds 
have been attained. The occupation is often full of 
interest ; and he who attempts it for the first time is 
astonished by the apparently illimitable distance and 
incoherence between the starting-point and the goal. 
What, then, must have been my amazement when I 
heard the Frenchman speak what he had just spoken, 
and when I could not help acknowledging that he had 
spoken the truth. He continued : 

" We had been talking of horses, if I remember 

aright, just before leaving the Rue C . This was 

the last subject we discussed. As we crossed into this 
street, a fruiterer, with a large basket upon his head, 
brushing quickly past us, thrust you upon a pile of 
paving-stones collected at a spot where the causeway 
is undergoing repair. You stepped upon one of the 
loose fragments, slipped, slightly strained your ankle, 
appeared vexed or sulky, muttered a few words, turned 
to look at the pile, and then proceeded in silence. I 
was not particularly attentive to what you did ; but 

253 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

observation has become with me, of late, a species of 
necessity. 

" You kept your eyes upon the ground glancing, 
with a petulant expression, at the holes and ruts in the 
pavement (so that I saw you were still thinking of the 
stones), until we reached the little alley called Lamar- 
tine, which has been paved, by way of experiment, 
with the overlapping and riveted blocks. Here your 
countenance brightened up, and, perceiving your lips 
move, I could not doubt that you murmured the word 
4 stereotomy, a term very affectedly applied to this 
species of pavement. I knew that you could not say 
to yourself stereotomy without being brought to 
think of atomies, and thus of the theories of Epicurus ; 
and since, when we discussed this subject not very long 
ago, I mentioned to you how singularly, yet with how 
little notice, the vague guesses of that noble Greek had 
met with confirmation in the late nebular cosmogony, 
I felt that you could not avoid casting your eyes up 
wards to the great nebula in Orion, and I certainly 
expected that you would do so. You did look up ; 
and I was now assured that I had correctly followed 
your steps. But in that bitter tirade upon Chantilly, 
which appeared in yesterday s c Musee, the satirist, 
making some disgraceful allusions to the cobbler s 
change of name upon assuming the buskin, quoted 
a Latin line about which we have often conversed. 
I mean the line 

Perdidit antiquum litera prima sonum. 

I had told you that this was in reference to Orion, 
formerly written Urion ; and, from certain pungencies 
connected with this explanation, I was aware that you 
could not have forgotten it. It was clear, therefore, 

254 



THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE 

that you would not fail to combine the two ideas of 
Orion and Chantilly. That you did combine them I 
saw by the character of the smile which passed over 
your lips. You thought of the poor cobbler s immola 
tion. So far, you had been stooping in your gait ; but 
now I saw you draw yourself up to your full height. 
I was then sure that you reflected upon the diminutive 
figure of Chantilly. At this point I interrupted your 
meditations to remark that as, in fact, he was a very 
little fellow that Chantilly he would do better at 
the Theatre des Varietes" 

Not long after this, we were looking over an 
evening edition of the Gazette des Tribunaux^ when the 
following paragraphs arrested our attention. 

" EXTRAORDINARY MURDERS. This morning, about 
three o clock, the inhabitants of the Quartier St. Roch 
were aroused from sleep by a succession of terrific 
shrieks, issuing, apparently, from the fourth story of a 
house in the Rue Morgue, known to be in the sole 
occupancy of one Madame L Espanaye, and her 
daughter, Mademoiselle Camille L Espanaye. After 
some delay, occasioned by a fruitless attempt to procure 
admission in the usual manner, the gateway was broken 
in with a crowbar, and eight or ten of the neighbours 
entered, accompanied by two gendarmes. By this time 
the cries had ceased; but, as the party rushed up the 
first flight of stairs, two or more rough voices, in angry 
contention, were distinguished, and seemed to proceed 
from the upper part of the house. As the second 
landing was reached, these sounds, also, had ceased, and 
everything remained perfectly quiet. The party spread 
themselves, and hurried from room to room. Upon 
arriving at a large back chamber in the fourth story 
(the door of which, being found locked, with the key 

255 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

inside, was forced open), a spectacle presented itself 
which struck every one present not less with horror 
than with astonishment. 

" The apartment was in the wildest disorder the 
furniture broken and thrown about in all directions. 
There was only one bedstead ; and from this the bed 
had been removed, and thrown into the middle of the 
floor. On a chair lay a razor, besmeared with blood. 
On the hearth were two or three long and thick tresses 
of grey human hair, also dabbled in blood, and seeming 
to have been pulled out by the roots. Upon the floor 
were found four Napoleons, an ear-ring of topaz, three 
large silver spoons, three smaller of metal d Alger, and 
two bags, containing nearly four thousand francs in 
gold. The drawers of a bureau, which stood in one 
corner, were open, and had been, apparently, rifled, 
although many articles still remained in them. A 
small iron safe was discovered under the bed (not under 
the bedstead). It was open, with the key still in the 
door. It had no contents beyond a few old letters, 
and other papers of little consequence. 

" Of Madame L Espanaye no traces were here 
seen ; but an unusual quantity of soot being observed 
in the fireplace, a search was made in the chimney, 
and (horrible to relate!) the corpse of the daughter, 
head downwards, was dragged therefrom ; it having 
been thus forced up the narrow aperture for a consider 
able distance. The body was quite warm. Upon 
examining it, many excoriations were perceived, no 
doubt occasioned by the violence with which it had 
been thrust up and disengaged. Upon the face were 
many severe scratches, and, upon the throat, dark 
bruises, and deep indentations of finger-nails, as if the 
deceased had been throttled to death. 
256 



THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE 

"After a thorough investigation of every portion of 
the house without further discovery, the party made its 
way into a small paved yard in the rear of the building, 
where lay the corpse of the old lady, with her throat so 
entirely cut that, upon an attempt to raise her, the head 
fell off. The body, as well as the head, was fearfully 
mutilated the former so much so as scarcely to retain 
any semblance of humanity. 

" To this horrible mystery there is not as yet, we 
believe, the slightest clue." 

The next day s paper had these additional par 
ticulars : 

" The Tragedy in the Rue Morgue. Many individuals 
have been examined in relation to this most extra 
ordinary and frightful affair " (the word " affaire " has 
not yet, in France, that levity of import which it con 
veys with us), " but nothing whatever has transpired to 
throw light upon it. We give below all the material 
testimony elicited. 

" Pauline Dubourg, laundress, deposes that she has 
known both the deceased for three years, having washed 
for them during that period. The old lady and her 
daughter seemed on good terms very affectionate 
towards each other. They were excellent pay. Could 
not speak in regard to their mode or means of living. 
Believed that Madame L. told fortunes for a living. 
Was reputed to have money put by. Never met any 
persons in the house when she called for the clothes or 
took them home. Was sure that they had no servant 
in employ. There appeared to be no furniture in any 
part of the building except in the fourth story 

" Pierre Moreau^ tobacconist, deposes that he has been 
in the habit of selling small quantities of tobacco and 
snuff to Madame L Espanaye for nearly four years. 

R 257 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

Was born in the neighbourhood, and has always resided 
there. The deceased and her daughter had occupied 
the house in which the corpses were found, for more 
than six years. It was formerly occupied by a jeweller, 
who under-let the upper rooms to various persons. 
The house was the property of Madame L. She 
became dissatisfied with the abuse of the premises by 
her tenant, and moved into them herself, refusing to 
let any portion. The old lady was childish. Witness 
had seen the daughter some five or six times during 
the six years. The two lived an exceedingly retired 
life were reputed to have money. Had heard it said 
among the neighbours that Madame L. told fortunes 
did not believe it. Had never seen any person enter 
the door except the old lady and her daughter, a 
porter once or twice, and a physician some eight or 
ten times. 

" Many other persons, neighbours, gave evidence to 
the same effect. No one was spoken of as frequenting 
the house. It was not known whether there were any 
living connections of Madame L. and her daughter. 
The shutters of the front windows were seldom opened. 
Those in the rear were always closed, with the excep 
tion of the large back room, fourth story. The house 
was a good house not very old. 

" Isidore Muset, gendarme^ deposes that he was called 
to the house about three o clock in the morning, and 
found some twenty or thirty persons at the gateway, 
endeavouring to gain admittance. Forced it open, at 
length, with a bayonet not with a crowbar. Had 
but little difficulty in getting it open, on account of its 
being a double or folding gate, and bolted neither at 
bottom nor top. The shrieks were continued until the 
gate was forced and then suddenly ceased. They 

258 



THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE 

seemed to be screams of some person (or persons) in 
great agony were loud and drawn out, not short and 
quick. Witness led the way upstairs. Upon reaching 
the first landing, heard two voices in loud and angry 
contention the one a gruff voice, the other much 
shriller a very strange voice. Could distinguish some 
words of the former, which was that of a Frenchman. 
Was positive that it was not a woman s voice. Could 
distinguish the words c sacre and diable The shrill 
voice was that of a foreigner. Could not be sure 
whether it was the voice of a man or of a woman. 
Could not make out what was said, but believed the 
language to be Spanish. The state of the room and 
of the bodies was described by this witness as we 
described them yesterday. 

" Henri Duval^ a neighbour, and by trade a silver 
smith, deposes that he was one of the party who first 
entered the house. Corroborates the testimony of 
Muset in general. As soon as they forced an entrance, 
they reclosed the door, to keep out the crowd, which 
collected very fast, notwithstanding the lateness of the 
hour. The shrill voice, the witness thinks, was that of 
an Italian. Was certain it was not French. Could 
not be sure that it was a man s voice. It might have 
been a woman s. Was not acquainted with the Italian 
language. Could not distinguish the words, but was 
convinced by the intonation that the speaker was an 
Italian. Knew Madame L. and her daughter. Had 
conversed with both frequently. Was sure that the 
shrill voice was not that of either of the deceased. 

" Odenheimer^ restaurateur. This witness volun 
teered his testimony. Not speaking French, was 
examined through an interpreter. Is a native of 
Amsterdam. Was passing the house at the time of the 

259 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

shrieks. They lasted for several minutes probably ten. 
They were long and loud very awful and distressing. 
Was one of those who entered the building. Corro 
borated the previous evidence in every respect but 
one. Was sure that the shrill voice was that of a 
man of a Frenchman. Could not distinguish the 
words uttered. They were loud and quick unequal- 
spoken apparently in fear as well as in anger. The voice 
was harsh not so much shrill as harsh. Could not 
call it a shrill voice. The gruff voice said repeatedly 
sacrej diable^ and once mon Dieu* 

" yules Mignaud, banker, of the firm of Mignaud et 
Fils, Rue Deloraine. Is the elder Mignaud. Madame 
L Espanaye had some property. Had opened an account 

with his banking house in the spring of the year 

(eight years previously). Made frequent deposits in 
small sums. Had checked for nothing until the third 
day before her death, when she took out in person the 
sum of 4000 francs. This sum was paid in gold, and a 
clerk sent home with the money. 

" Adolphe Le Bon, clerk to Mignaud et Fils, deposes 
that on the day in question, about noon, he accompanied 
Madame L Espanaye to her residence with the 4000 
francs, put up in two bags. Upon the door being 
opened, Mademoiselle L. appeared and took from his 
hands one of the bags, while the old lady relieved him 
of the other. He then bowed and departed. Did not 
see any person in the street at the time. It is a bye- 
street very lonely. 

" William Bird, tailor, deposes that he was one of the 
party who entered the house. Is an Englishman. Has 
lived in Paris two years. Was one of the first to ascend 
the stairs. Heard the voices in contention. The gruff 
voice was that of a Frenchman. Could make out 
260 



THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE 

several words, but cannot now remember all. Heard 
distinctly l sacre" and c mon Dieu There was a sound 
at the moment as if of several persons struggling a 
scraping and scuffling sound. The shrill voice was very 
loud louder than the gruff one. Is sure that it was not 
the voice of an Englishman. Appeared to be that of a 
German. Might have been a woman s voice. Does 
not understand German. 

" Four of the above-named witnesses, being recalled, 
deposed that the door of the chamber in which was 
found the body of Mademoiselle L. was locked on the 
inside when the party reached it. Everything was 
perfectly silent no groans or noises of any kind. Upon 
forcing the door no person was seen. The windows, 
both of the back and front room, were down and firmly 
fastened from within. A door between the two rooms 
was closed, but not locked. The door leading from the 
front room into the passage was locked, with the key 
on the inside. A small room in the front of the house, 
on the fourth story, at the head of the passage, was 
open, the door being ajar. This room was crowded 
with old beds, boxes, and so forth. These were care 
fully removed and searched. There was not an inch 
of any portion of the house which was not carefully 
searched. Sweeps were sent up and down the chimneys. 
The house was a four-story one, with garrets (mansardes}. 
A trap-door on the roof was nailed down very securely 
did not appear to have been opened for years. The 
time elapsing between the hearing of the voices in con 
tention and the breaking open of the room door, was 
variously stated by the witnesses. Some made it as 
short as three minutes some as long as five. The door 
was opened with difficulty. 

" Alfonzo Carcio, undertaker, deposes that he resides 

261 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

in the Rue Morgue. Is a native of Spain. Was one 
of the party who entered the house. Did not proceed 
upstairs. Is nervous, and was apprehensive of the 
consequences of agitation. Heard the voices in con 
tention. The gruff voice was that of a Frenchman. 
Could not distinguish what was said. The shrill voice 
was that of an Englishman is sure of this. Does not 
understand the English language, but judges by the 
intonation. 

" Alberto Montani, confectioner, deposes that he 
was among the first to ascend the stairs. Heard the 
voices in question. The gruff voice was that of a 
Frenchman. Distinguished several words. The 
speaker appeared to be expostulating. Could not 
make out the words of the shrill voice. Spoke quick 
and unevenly. Thinks it the voice of a Russian. 
Corroborates the general testimony. Is an Italian. 
Never conversed with a native of Russia. 

" Several witnesses, recalled, here testified that the 
chimneys of all the rooms on the fourth story were too 
narrow to admit the passage of a human being. By 
sweeps were meant cylindrical sweeping-brushes, such 
as are employed by those who clean chimneys. These 
brushes were passed up and down every flue in the 
house. There is no back passage by which any one 
could have descended while the party proceeded upstairs. 
The body of Mademoiselle L Espanaye was so firmly 
wedged in the chimney that it could not be got down 
until four or five of the party united their strength. 

" Paul Dumas, physician, deposes that he was 
called to view the bodies about daybreak. They were 
both then lying on the sacking of the bedstead 
in the chamber where Mademoiselle L. was found. 
The corpse of the young lady was much bruised and 
262 



THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE 

excoriated. The fact that it had been thrust up the 
chimney would sufficiently account for these appearances. 
The throat was greatly chafed. There were several 
deep scratches just below the chin, together with a 
series of livid spots which were evidently the impres 
sion of fingers. The face was fearfully discoloured, and 
the eyeballs protruded. The tongue had been partially 
bitten through. A large bruise was discovered upon 
the pit of the stomach, produced, apparently, by the 
pressure of a knee. In the opinion of M. Dumas, 
Mademoiselle L Espanaye had been throttled to death 
by some person or persons unknown. The corpse ot 
the mother was horribly mutilated. All the bones of 
the right leg and arm were more or less shattered. The 
left tibia much splintered, as well as all the ribs of the left 
side. Whole body dreadfully bruised and discoloured. 
It was not possible to say how the injuries had been 
inflicted. A heavy club of wood, or a broad bar of iron 
a chair any large, heavy, and obtuse weapon would 
have produced such results, if wielded by the hands of 
a very powerful man. No woman could have inflicted 
the blows with any weapon. The head of the deceased, 
when seen by witness, was entirely separated from the 
body, and was also greatly shattered. The throat had 
evidently been cut with some very sharp instrument 
probably with a razor. 

" Alexandre Etienne, surgeon, was called with M. 
Dumas to view the bodies. Corroborated the testimony, 
and the opinions of M. Dumas. 

" Nothing farther of importance was elicited, al 
though several other persons were examined. A murder 
so mysterious, and so perplexing in all its particulars, 
was never before committed in Paris if indeed a 
murder has been committed at all. The police are 

263 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

entirely at fault an unusual occurrence in affairs of 
this nature. There is not, however, the shadow of a 
clue apparent." 

The evening edition of the paper stated that the 
greatest excitement still continued in the Quartier St. 
Roch that the premises in question had been carefully 
re-searched, and fresh examinations of witnesses insti 
tuted, but all to no purpose. A postcript, however, 
mentioned that Adolphe Le Bon had been arrested and 
imprisoned although nothing appeared to criminate 
him, beyond the facts already detailed. 

Dupin seemed singularly interested in the progress 
of this affair at least so I judged from his manner, for 
he made no comments. It was only after the announce 
ment that Le Bon had been imprisoned, that he asked 
me my opinion respecting the murders. 

I could merely agree with all Paris in considering 
them an insoluble mystery. I saw no means by which 
it would be possible to trace the murderer. 

" We must not judge of the means," said Dupin, 
" by this shell of an examination. The Parisian police, 
so much extolled for acumen, are cunning, but no more. 
There is no method in their proceedings, beyond the 
method of the moment. They make a vast parade of 
measures ; but, not unfrequently, these are so ill adapted 
to the objects proposed, as to put us in mind of Mon 
sieur Jourdain s calling for his robe-de-chambre pour 
mleux entendre la musique. The results attained by them 
are not unfrequently surprising, but, for the most part, 
are brought about by simple diligence and activity. 
When these qualities are unavailing, their schemes fail. 
Vidocq, for example, was a good guesser, and a perse 
vering man. But, without educated thought, he erred 
continually by the very intensity of his investigations. 
264 



THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE 

He impaired his vision by holding the object too close. 
He might see, perhaps, one or two points with unusual 
clearness, but in so doing he, necessarily, lost sight of 
the matter as a whole. Thus there is such a thing as 
being too profound. Truth is not always in a well. 
In fact, as regards the more important knowledge, I do 
believe that she is invariably superficial. The depth 
lies in the valleys where we seek her, and not upon the 
mountain-tops where she is found. The modes and 
sources of this kind of error are well typified in the con 
templation of the heavenly bodies. To look at a star 
by glances to view it in a side-long way, by turning 
towards it the exterior portions of the retina (more 
susceptible of feeble impressions of light than the 
interior), is to behold the star distinctly is to have 
the best appreciation of its lustre a lustre which grows 
dim just in proportion as we turn our vision fu//y upon 
it. A greater number of rays actually fall upon the eye 
in the latter case, but, in the former, there is the more 
refined capacity for comprehension. By undue pro 
fundity we perplex and enfeeble thought ; and it is 
possible to make even Venus herself vanish from the 
firmament by a scrutiny too sustained, too concentrated, 
or too direct. 

" As for these murders, let us enter into some 
examinations for ourselves before we make up an 
opinion respecting them. An inquiry will afford us 
amusement " (I thought this an odd term, so applied, 
but said nothing), "and, besides, Le Bon once rendered 
me a service for which I am not ungrateful. We will 
go and see the premises with our own eyes. I know 

G , the Prefect of Police, and shall have no difficulty 

in obtaining the necessary permission." 

The permission was obtained, and we proceeded 

265 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

at once to the Rue Morgue. This is one of those 
miserable thoroughfares which intervene between the 
Rue Richelieu and the Rue St. Roch. It was late in 
the afternoon when we reached it, as this quarter is at 
a great distance from that in which we resided. The 
house was readily found, for there were still many 
persons gazing up at the closed shutters with an object 
less curiosity, from the opposite side of the way. It 
was an ordinary Parisian house, with a gateway, on one 
side of which was a glazed watch-box, with a sliding 
panel in the window, indicating a loge de concierge. 
Before going in we walked up the street, turned down 
an alley, and then, again turning, passed in the rear of 
the building Dupin, meanwhile, examining the whole 
neighbourhood, as well as the house, with a minuteness 
of attention for which I could see no possible object. 

Retracing our steps, we came again to the front ot 
the dwelling, rang, and, having shown our credentials, 
were admitted by the agents in charge. We went 
upstairs into the chamber where the body ot 
Mademoiselle L Espanaye had been found, and where 
both the deceased still lay. The disorders of the room 
had, as usual, been suffered to exist. I saw nothing 
beyond what had been stated in the Gazette des 
Tribunaux, Dupin scrutinised everything not except 
ing the bodies of the victims. We then went into the 
other rooms, and into the yard, a gendarme accompanying 
us throughout. The examination occupied us until 
dark, when we took our departure. On our way home 
my companion stepped in for a moment at the office of 
one of the daily papers. 

I have said that the whims of my friend were 
manifold, and that Je les menageais : for this phrase 
there is no English equivalent. It was his humour, 
266 



THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE 

now, to decline all conversation on the subject of the 
murder until about noon the next day. He then asked 
me suddenly if I had observed anything peculiar at the 
scene of the atrocity. 

There was something in his manner of emphasising 
the word " peculiar," which caused me to shudder, 
without knowing why. 

" No, nothing peculiar" I said ; " nothing more, at 
least, than we both saw stated in the paper." 

" The Gazette" he replied, " has not entered, I fear, 
into the unusual horror of the thing. But dismiss the 
idle opinions of this print. It appears to me that this 
mystery is considered insoluble, for the very reason 
which should cause it to be regarded as easy of solution 
I mean for the outre character of its features. The 
police are confounded by the seeming absence of motive 
not for the murder itself but for the atrocity of the 
murder. They are puzzled, too, by the seeming im 
possibility of reconciling the voices heard in contention, 
with the facts that no one was discovered upstairs but 
the assassinated Mademoiselle L Espanaye, and that 
there were no means of egress without the notice of the 
party ascending. The wild disorder of the room ; the 
corpse thrust, with the head downwards, up the 
chimney ; the frightful mutilation of the body of 
the old lady; these considerations, with those just 
mentioned, and others which I need not mention, 
have sufficed to paralyse the powers, by putting com 
pletely at fault the boasted acumen, of the government 
agents. They have fallen into the gross but common 
error of confounding the unusual with the abstruse. 
But it is by these deviations from the plane of the 
ordinary, that reason feels its way, if at all, in its search 
for the true. In investigations such as we are now 

267 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

pursuing, it should not be so much asked c what has 
occurred, as c what has occurred that has never occurred 
before. In fact, the facility with which I shall arrive, 
or have arrived, at the solution of this mystery, is in 
the direct ratio of its apparent insolubility in the eyes 
of the police." 

I stared at the speaker in mute astonishment. 

" I am now awaiting," continued he, looking 
towards the door of our apartment " I am now 
awaiting a person who, although perhaps not the per 
petrator of these butcheries, must have been in some 
measure implicated in their perpetration. Of the 
worst portion of the crimes committed, it is probable 
that he is innocent. I hope that I am right in this 
supposition ; for upon it I build my expectation of 
reading the entire riddle. I look for the man here 
in this room every moment. It is true that he may 
not arrive ; but the probability is that he will. Should 
he come, it will be necessary to detain him. Here are 
pistols ; and we both know how to use them when 
occasion demands their use." 

I took the pistols, scarcely knowing what I did, or 
believing what I heard, while Dupin went on, very 
much as if in a soliloquy. I have already spoken of 
his abstract manner at such times. His discourse was 
addressed to myself ; but his voice, although by no 
means loud, had that intonation which is commonly 
employed in speaking to some one at a great distance. 
His eyes, vacant in expression, regarded only the wall. 

" That the voices heard in contention," he said, " by 
the party upon the stairs, were not the voices of the 
women themselves, was fully proved by the evidence. 
This relieves us of all doubt upon the question whether 
the old lady could have first destroyed the daughter, and 
268 



THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE 

afterward have committed suicide. I speak of this 
point chiefly for the sake of method ; for the strength 
of Madame L Espanaye would have been utterly un 
equal to the task of thrusting her daughter s corpse up 
the chimney as it was found ; and the nature of the 
wounds upon her own person entirely preclude the idea 
of self-destruction. Murder, then, has been committed 
by some third party ; and the voices of this third party 
were those heard in contention. Let me now advert 
not to the whole testimony respecting these voices but 
to what was peculiar in that testimony. Did you 
observe any thing peculiar about it ? " 

I remarked that, while all the witnesses agreed in 
supposing the gruff voice to be that of a Frenchman, 
there was much disagreement in regard to the shrill, or, 
as one individual termed it, the harsh voice. 

" That was the evidence itself," said Dupin, " but it 
was not the peculiarity of the evidence. You have 
observed nothing distinctive. Yet there was something 
to be observed. The witnesses, as you remark, agreed 
about the gruff voice ; they were here unanimous. 
But in regard to the shrill voice, the peculiarity is 
not that they disagreed but that, while an Italian, an 
Englishman, a Spaniard, a Hollander, and a Frenchman 
attempted to describe it, each one spoke of it as that of 
a foreigner. Each is sure that it was not the voice 
of one of his own countrymen. Each likens it not to 
the voice of an individual of any nation with whose 
language he is conversant but the converse. The 
Frenchman supposes it the voice of a Spaniard, and 
c might have distinguished some words had he been 
acquainted with the Spanish? The Dutchman maintains 
it to have been that of a Frenchman ; but we find it 
stated that not understanding French this witness was 

269 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

examined through an interpreter? The Englishman 
thinks it the voice of a German, and does not understand 
German The Spaniard is sure that it was that of an 
Englishman, but judges by the intonation altogether, 
as he has no knowledge of the English. The Italian 
believes it the voice of a Russian, but has never con 
versed <with a native of Russia A second Frenchman 
differs, moreover, with the first, and is positive that the 
voice was that of an Italian, but, not being cognisant of 
that tongue^ is, like the Spaniard, convinced by the 
intonation. Now, how strangely unusual must that 
voice have really been, about which such testimony as 
this could have been elicited ! in whose tones^ even, 
denizens of the five great divisions of Europe could 
recognise nothing familiar ! You will say that it 
might have been the voice of an Asiatic of an African. 
Neither Asiatics nor Africans abound in Paris ; but, 
without denying the inference, I will now merely call 
your attention to three points. The voice is termed 
by one witness harsh rather than shrill/ It is repre 
sented by two others to have been quick and unequal 
No words no sounds resembling words were by any 
witness mentioned as distinguishable. 

" I know not," continued Dupin, " what impres 
sion I may have made, so far, upon your own under 
standing ; but I do not hesitate to say that legitimate 
deductions even from this portion of the testimony 
the portion respecting the gruff and shrill voices are 
in themselves sufficient to engender a suspicion which 
should give direction to all farther progress in the 
investigation of the mystery. I said legitimate de 
ductions ; but my meaning is not thus fully expressed. 
I designed to imply that the deductions are the sole 
proper ones, and that the suspicion arises inevitably from 
270 



THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE 

them as the single result. What the suspicion is, 
however, I will not say just yet. I merely wish you to 
bear in mind that, with myself, it was sufficiently 
forcible to give a definite form a certain tendency 
to my inquiries in the chamber. 

" Let us now transport ourselves, in fancy, to this 
chamber. What shall we first seek here ? The means 
of egress employed by the murderers. It is not too 
much to say that neither of us believe in preternatural 
events. Madame and Mademoiselle L Espanaye were 
not destroyed by spirits. The doers of the deed were 
material, and escaped materially. Then how ? Fortu 
nately, there is but one mode of reasoning upon the 
point, and that mode must lead us to a definite decision. 
Let us examine, each by each, the possible means of 
egress. It is clear that the assassins were in the room 
where Mademoiselle L Espanaye was found, or at least 
in the room adjoining, when the party ascended the 
stairs. It is then only from these two apartments that 
we have to seek issues. The police have laid bare the 
floors, the ceilings, and the masonry of the walls, in 
every direction. No secret issues could have escaped 
their vigilance. But not trusting to their eyes, I 
examined with my own. There were, then, no secret 
issues. Both doors leading from the rooms into the 
passage were securely locked, with the keys inside. 
Let us turn to the chimneys. These, although of 
ordinary width for some eight or ten feet above the 
hearths, will not admit, throughout their extent, the 
body of a large cat. The impossibility of egress, by 
means already stated, being thus absolute, we are reduced 
to the windows. Through those of the front room no 
one could have escaped without notice from the crowd 
in the street. The murderers must have passed, then, 

271 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

through those of the back room. Now, brought to 
this conclusion in so unequivocal a manner as we are, 
it is not our part, as reasoners, to reject it on account of 
apparent impossibilities. It is only for us to prove 
that these apparent impossibilities are, in reality, not 
such. 

" There are two windows in the chamber. One 
of them is unobstructed by furniture and is wholly 
visible. The lower portion of the other is hidden 
from view by the head of the unwieldy bedstead which 
is thrust close up against it. The former was found 
securely fastened from within. It resisted the utmost 
force of those who endeavoured to raise it. A large 
gimlet-hole had been pierced in its frame to the left, 
and a very stout nail was found fitted therein, nearly 
to the head. Upon examining the other window, a 
similar nail was seen similarly fitted in it ; and a 
vigorous attempt to raise this sash, failed also. The 
police were now entirely satisfied that egress had not 
been in these directions. And, therefore^ it was thought 
a matter of supererogation to withdraw the nails and 
open the windows. 

" My own examination was somewhat more par 
ticular, and was so for the reason I have just given 
because here it was, I knew, that all apparent impossi 
bilities must be proved to be not such in reality. 

" I proceeded to think thus a posteriori. The 
murderers did escape from one of these windows. This 
being so, they could not have re-fastened the sashes 
from the inside, as they were found fastened; the 
consideration which put a stop, through its obvious 
ness, to the scrutiny of the police in this quarter. Yet 
the sashes were fastened. They tnusf, then, have the 
power of fastening themselves. There was no escape 
272 



THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE 

from this conclusion. I stepped to the unobstructed 
casement, withdrew the nail with some difficulty, and 
attempted to raise the sash. It resisted all my efforts, 
as I had anticipated. A concealed spring must, I now 
knew, exist ; and this corroboration of my idea con 
vinced me that my premises, at least, were correct, 
however mysterious still appeared the circumstances 
attending the nails. A careful search soon brought to 
light the hidden spring. I pressed it, and, satisfied 
with the discovery, forbore to upraise the sash. 

" I now replaced the nail and regarded it atten 
tively. A person passing out through this window 
might have reclosed it, and the spring would have 
caught but the nail could not have been replaced. 
The conclusion was plain, and again narrowed in the 
field of my investigations. The assassins must have 
escaped through the other window. Supposing, then, 
the springs upon each sash to be the same, as was 
probable, there must be found a difference between the 
nails, or at least between the modes of their fixture. 
Getting upon the sacking of the bedstead, I looked 
over the head-board minutely at the second casement. 
Passing my hand down behind the board, I readily 
discovered and pressed the spring, which was, as I had 
supposed, identical in character with its neighbour. I 
now looked at the nail. It was as stout as the other, 
and apparently fitted in the same manner driven in 
nearly up to the head. 

" You will say that I was puzzled ; but, if you 
think so, you must have misunderstood the nature of 
the inductions. To use a sporting phrase, I had not 
been once 4 at fault. The scent had never for an in 
stant been lost. There was no flaw in any link of the 
chain. I had traced the secret to its ultimate result 

s 273 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

and that result was the nail. It had, I say, in every 
respect, the appearance of its fellow in the other 
window ; but this fact was an absolute nullity (conclu 
sive as it might seem to be) when compared with the 
consideration that here, at this point, terminated the 
clue. 4 There must be something wrong, I said, c about 
the nail.* I touched it; and the head, with about a 
quarter of an inch of the shank, came off in my 
fingers. The rest of the shank was in the gimlet-hole, 
where it had been broken off. The fracture was an 
old one (for its edges were incrusted with rust), and 
had apparently been accomplished by the blow of a 
hammer, which had partially imbedded, in the top of 
the bottom sash, the head portion of the nail. I now 
carefully replaced this head portion in the indentation 
whence I had taken it, and the resemblance to a perfect 
nail was complete the fissure was invisible. Pressing 
the spring, I gently raised the sash for a few inches ; 
the head went up with it, remaining firm in its bed. 
I closed the window, and the semblance of the whole 
nail was again perfect. 

" The riddle, so far, was now unriddled. The 
assassin had escaped through the window which looked 
upon the bed. Dropping of its own accord upon his 
exit (or perhaps purposely closed), it had become 
fastened by the spring ; and it was the retention of 
this spring which had been mistaken by the police for 
that of the nail farther inquiry being thus considered 
unnecessary. 

" The next question is that of the mode of descent. 
Upon this point I had been satisfied in my walk with 
you around the building. About five feet and a half 
from the casement in question there runs a lightning- 
rod. From this rod it would have been impossible for 
274 



THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE 

any one to reach the window itself, to say nothing of 
entering it. I observed, however, that the shutters of 
the fourth story were of the peculiar kind called by 
Parisian carpenters ferrades a kind rarely employed at 
the present day, but frequently seen upon very old 
mansions at Lyons and Bordeaux. They are in the 
form of ar, ordinary door (a single, not a folding door), 
except that the upper half is latticed or worked in open 
trellis thus affording an excellent hold for the hands. 
In the present instance these shutters are fully three 
feet and a half broad. When we saw them from the 
rear of the house, they were both about half open 
that is to say, they stood off at right-angles from the 
wall. It is probable that the police, as well as myself, 
examined the back of the tenement ; but, if so, in 
looking at these ferrades in the line of their breadth 
(as they must have done), they did not perceive this 
great breadth itself, or, at all events, failed to take it 
into due consideration. In fact, having once satisfied 
themselves that no egress could have been made in this 
quarter, they would naturally bestow here a very 
cursory examination. It was clear to me, however, 
that the shutter belonging to the window at the head 
of the bed, would, if swung fully back to the wall, 
reach to within two feet of the lightning-rod. It was 
also evident that, by exertion of a very unusual degree 
of activity and courage, an entrance into the window, 
from the rod, might have been thus effected. By 
reaching to the distance of two feet and a half (we now 
suppose the shutter open to its whole extent) a robber 
might have taken a firm grasp upon the trellis-work. 
Letting go, then, his hold upon the rod, placing his feet 
securely against the wall, and springing boldly from it, 
he might have swung the shutter so as to close it, and, 

275 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

if we imagine the window open at the time, might 
even have swung himself into the room. 

" I wish you to bear especially in mind that I have 
spoken of a very unusual degree of activity as requisite 
to success in so hazardous and so difficult a feat. It is 
my design to show you, first, that the thing might 
possibly have been accomplished : but, secondly and 
chiefly, I wish to impress upon your understanding the 
very extraordinary the almost preternatural character 
of that agility which could have accomplished it. 

" You will say, no doubt, using the language of the 
law, that to make out my case, I should rather under 
value, than insist upon a full estimation of the activity 
required in this matter. This may be the practice in 
law, but it is not the usage of reason. My ultimate 
object is only the truth. My immediate purpose is to 
lead you to place in juxtaposition that very unusual 
activity of which I have just spoken, with that very 
peculiar shrill (or harsh) and unequal voice, about whose 
nationality no two persons could be found to agree, 
and in whose utterance no syllabification could be 
detected." 

At these words a vague and half-formed conception 
of the meaning of Dupin flitted over my mind. I 
seemed to be upon the verge of comprehension, without 
power to comprehend as men, at times, find them 
selves upon the brink of remembrance, without being 
able, in the end, to remember. My friend went on 
with his discourse. 

" You will see," he said, " that I have shifted the 
question from the mode of egress to that of ingress. It 
was my design to suggest that both were effected in the 
same manner, at the same point. Let us now revert to 
the interior of the room. Let us survey the appearances 
276 



THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE 

here. The drawers of the bureau, it is said, had been 
rifled, although many articles of apparel still remained 
within them. The conclusion here is absurd. It is a 
mere guess a very silly one and no more. How are 
we to know that the articles found in the drawers 
were not all these drawers had originally contained ? 
Madame L Espanaye and her daughter lived an exceed 
ingly retired life saw no company seldom went out 
had little use for numerous changes of habiliment. 
Those found were at least of as good quality as any 
likely to be possessed by these ladies. If a thief had 
taken any, why did he not take the best why did he 
not take all ? In a word, why did he abandon four 
thousand francs in gold to encumber himself with a 
bundle of linen ? The gold was abandoned. Nearly 
the whole sum mentioned by Monsieur Mignaud, the 
banker, was discovered, in bags, upon the floor. I wish 
you, therefore, to discard from your thoughts the 
blundering idea of motive, engendered in the brains ot 
the police by that portion of the evidence which 
speaks of money delivered at the door of the house. 
Coincidences ten times as remarkable as this (the 
delivery of the money, and murder committed within 
three days upon the party receiving it), happen to all 
of us every hour of our lives, without attracting even 
momentary notice. Coincidences, in general, are great 
stumbling-blocks in the way of that class of thinkers 
who have been educated to know nothing of the theory 
of probabilities that theory to which the most glorious 
objects of human research are indebted for the most 
glorious of illustration. In the present instance, had 
the gold been gone, the fact of its delivery three days 
before would have formed something more tnan a 
coincidence. It would have been corroborative of this 

277 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

idea of motive. But, under the real circumstances of 
the case, if we are to suppose gold the motive of this 
outrage, we must also imagine the perpetrator so 
vacillating an idiot as to have abandoned his gold and 
his motive together. 

" Keeping now steadily in mind the points to which 
I have drawn your attention that peculiar voice, that 
unusual agility, and that startling absence of motive in 
a murder so singularly atrocious as this let us glance 
at the butchery itself. Here is a woman strangled to 
death by manual strength, and thrust up a chimney, 
head downwards. Ordinary assassins employ no such 
modes of murder as this. Least of all, do they thus 
dispose of the murdered. In the manner of thrusting 
the corpse up the chimney, you will admit that there was 
something excessively outre something altogether irre 
concilable with our common notions of human action, 
even when we suppose the actors the most depraved of 
men. Think, too, how great must have been that 
strength which could have thrust the body up such 
an aperture so forcibly that the united vigour of 
several persons was found barely sufficient to drag it 
down ! 

" Turn now, to other indications of the employment 
of a vigour most marvellous. On the hearth were 
thick tresses very thick tresses of grey human hair. 
These had been torn out by the roots. You are aware 
of the great force in tearing thus from the head even 
twenty or thirty hairs together. You saw the locks in 
question as well as myself. Their roots (a hideous sight !) 
were clotted with fragments of the flesh of the scalp 
sure token of the prodigious power which had been 
exerted in uprooting perhaps half a million of hairs at a 
time. The throat of the old lady was not merely cut, 
278 



THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE 

but the head absolutely severed from the body ; the 
instrument was a mere razor. I wish you also to look 
at the brutal ferocity of these deeds. Of the bruises 
upon the body of Madame L Espanaye I do not speak. 
Monsieur Dumas and his worthy coadjutor Monsieur 
Etienne, have pronounced that they were inflicted by 
some obtuse instrument; and so far these gentlemen 
are very correct. The obtuse instrument was clearly 
the stone pavement in the yard, upon which the victim 
had fallen from the window which looked in upon the 
bed. This idea, however simple it may now seem, 
escaped the police for the same reason that the breadth 
of the shutters escaped them because, by the affair of 
the nails, their perceptions had been hermetically sealed 
against the possibility of the windows having ever been 
opened at all. 

" If now, in addition to all these things, you have 
properly reflected upon the odd disorder of the chamber, 
we have gone so far as to combine the ideas of an agility 
astounding, a strength superhuman, a ferocity brutal, a 
butchery without motive, a grotesquerie in horror abso 
lutely alien from humanity, and a voice foreign in tone 
to the ears of men of many nations, and devoid of all 
distinct or intelligible syllabification. What result, then, 
has ensued ? What impression have I made upon your 
fancy ? " 

I felt a creeping of the flesh as Dupin asked me the 
question. " A madman," I said, " has done this deed 
some raving maniac, escaped from a neighbouring 
Maison de Sante" 

" In some respects," he replied, " your idea is not 
irrelevant. But the voices of madmen, even in their 
wildest paroxysms, are never found to tally with that 
peculiar voice heard upon the stairs. Madmen are of 

279 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

some nation, and their language, however incoherent 
in its words, has always the coherence of syllabification. 
Besides, the hair of a madman is not such as I now hold 
in my hand. I disentangled this little tuft from the 
rigidly clutched ringers of Madame L Espanaye. Tell 
me what you can make of it." 

" Dupin ! " I said, completely unnerved; " this hair 
is most unusual this is no human hair." 

" I have not asserted that it is, * said he ; " but, be 
fore we decide this point, I wish you to glance at the 
little sketch I have here traced upon this paper. It is 
a fac-simile drawing of what has been described in one 
portion of the testimony as dark bruises and deep 
indentations of finger-nails, upon the throat of Ma 
demoiselle L Espanaye, and in another (by Messrs. 
Dumas and Etienne), as a series of livid spots, evidently 
the impression of fingers. 

" You will perceive," continued my friend, spread 
ing out the paper upon the table before us, " that this 
drawing gives the idea of a firm and fixed hold. There 
is no slipping apparent. Each finger has retained 
possibly until the death of the victim the fearful grasp 
by which it originally imbedded itself. Attempt, now, 
to place all your fingers, at the same time, in the re 
spective impressions as you see them." 

I made the attempt in vain. 

" We are possibly not giving this matter a fair 
trial," he said. "The paper is spread out upon a plane 
surface ; but the human throat is cylindrical. Here is 
a billet of wood, the circumference of which is about 
that of the throat. Wrap the drawing round it, and 
try the experiment again." 

I did so ; but the difficulty was even more obvious 
than before. 
280 



THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE 

" This," I said, " is the mark of no human hand." 

" Read now," replied Dupin, " this passage from 
Cuvier." 

It was a minute anatomical and generally descrip 
tive account of the large fulvous Ourang-Outang of the 
East Indian Islands. The gigantic stature, the pro 
digious strength and activity, the wild ferocity and the 
imitative propensities of these mammalia are sufficiently 
well known to all. I understood the full horrors of 
the murder at once. 

"The description of the digits," said I, as I made 
an end of reading, " is in exact accordance with this 
drawing. I see that no animal but an Ourang-Outang 
of the species here mentioned, could have impressed the 
indentations as you have traced them. This tuft of 
tawny hair, too, is identical with that of the beast of 
Cuvier. But I cannot possibly comprehend the parti 
culars of this frightful mystery. Besides, there were 
two voices heard in contention, and one of them was 
unquestionably the voice of a Frenchman." 

"True; and you will remember an expression attri 
buted almost unanimously, by the evidence, to this 
voice the expression, Mon Dieu ! This, under the 
circumstances, has been justly characterised by one of 
the witnesses (Montani, the confectioner), as an expres 
sion of remonstrance or expostulation. Upon these two 
words, therefore, I have mainly built my hopes of a 
full solution of the riddle. A Frenchman was cognisant 
of the murder. It is possible indeed it is far more 
than probable that he was innocent of all participation 
in the bloody transactions which took place. The 
Ourang-Outang may have escaped from him. He may 
have traced it to the chamber ; but, under the agitat 
ing circumstances which ensued, he could never have 

281 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

recaptured it. It is still at large. I will not pursue 
these guesses for I have no right to call them more 
since the shades of reflection upon which they are 
based are scarcely of sufficient depth to be appreciable 
by my own intellect, and since I could not pretend to 
make them intelligible to the understanding of another. 
We will call them guesses then, and speak of them as 
such. If the Frenchman in question is indeed, as I 
suppose, innocent of this atrocity, this advertisement, 
which I left last night, upon our return home, at the 
office of Le Monde (a paper devoted to the shipping 
interest, and much sought by sailors), will bring him to 
our residence." 

He handed me a paper, and I read thus : 

CAUGHT. In the Eon de Boulogne^ early In the morning of the 

inst. (the morning of the murder), a very large, tawny Ourang-Outang of 
the Bornese species. The owner (who is ascertained to be a sailor, belonging 
to a Maltese vessel] may have the animal again, upon identifying it satisfac 
torily and paying a few charges arising from its capture and keeping. Call 
at No. , Rue , Faubourg St. Germain au troisieme. 

" How was it possible," I asked, " that you should 
know the man to be a sailor, and belonging to a 
Maltese vessel ? " 

" I do not know it," said Dupin. " I am not sure 
of it. Here, however, is a small piece of ribbon, 
which from its form, and from its greasy appearance, 
has evidently been used in tying the hair in one of 
those long queues of which sailors are so fond. More 
over, this knot is one which few besides sailors can tie, 
and is peculiar to the Maltese. I picked the ribbon up 
at the foot of the lightning-rod. It could not have 
belonged to either of the deceased. Now, if, after all, 
I am wrong in my induction from this ribbon, that the 
Frenchman was a sailor belonging to a Maltese vessel, 
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THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE 

still I can have done no harm in saying what I did in 
the advertisement. If I am in error, he will merely 
suppose that I have been misled by some circumstance 
into which he will not take the trouble to inquire. 
But if I am right, a great point is gained. Cognisant 
although innocent of the murder, the Frenchman will 
naturally hesitate about replying to the advertisement 
about demanding the Ourang-Outang. He will reason 
thus : c I am innocent ; I am poor ; my Ourang- 
Outang is of great value to one in my circumstances 
a fortune of itself why should I lose it through idle 
apprehensions of danger ? Here it is, within my grasp. 
It was found in the Bois de Boulogne at a vast dis 
tance from the scene of that butchery. How can it 
ever be suspected that a brute beast should have done 
the deed ? The police are at fault they have failed 
to procure the slightest clue. Should they even trace 
the animal, it would be impossible to prove me cogni 
sant of the murder, or to implicate me in guilt on 
account of that cognisance. Above all, / am known. 
The advertiser designates me as the possessor of the 
beast. I am not sure to what limit his knowledge may 
extend. Should I avoid claiming a property of so great 
value, which it is known that I possess, I will render 
the animal, at least, liable to suspicion. It is not my 
policy to attract attention either to myself or to the 
beast. I will answer the advertisement, get the Ourang- 
Outang, and keep it close until this matter has blown 



over." 



At this moment we heard a step upon the stairs. 

" Be ready," said Dupin, " with your pistols, but 
neither use them nor show them until at a signal from 
myself." 

The front door of the house had been left open, and 

283 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

the visitor had entered, without ringing, and advanced 
several steps upon the staircase. Now, however, he 
seemed to hesitate. Presently we heard him descend 
ing. Dupin was moving quickly to the door, when we 
again heard him coming up. He did not turn back a 
second time, but stepped up with decision and rapped 
at the door of our chamber. 

" Come in," said Dupin, in a cheerful and hearty 
tone. 

A man entered. He was a sailor, evidently a 
tall, stout, and muscular-looking person, with a certain 
dare-devil expression of countenance, not altogether 
unprepossessing. His face, greatly sunburnt, was more 
than half hidden by whisker and mustachlo. He had 
with him a huge oaken cudgel, but appeared to be 
otherwise unarmed. He bowed awkwardly, and bade 
us "good evening," in French accents, which, although 
somewhat Neufchatelish, were still sufficiently indica 
tive of a Parisian origin. 

" Sit down, my friend," said Dupin. " I suppose 
you have called about the Ourang-Outang. Upon my 
word, I almost envy you the possession of him; a 
remarkably fine, and no doubt a very valuable animal. 
How old do you suppose him to be ? " 

The sailor drew a long breath, with the air of a 
man relieved of some intolerable burthen, and then 
replied, in an assured tone : 

" I have no way of telling but he can t be more 
than four or five years old Have you got him 
here ? " 

" Oh no; we had no conveniences for keeping him 
here. He is at a livery stable in the Rue Dubourg, 
just by. You can get him in the morning. Of course 
you are prepared to identify the property ? " 
284 



THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE 

" To be sure I am, sir." 

" I shall be very sorry to part with him," said 
Dupin. 

" I don t mean that you should be at all this trouble 
for nothing, sir," said the man. Couldn t expect it. 
Am very willing to pay a reward for the finding of the 
animal that is to say, anything in reason." 

" Well," replied my friend, " that is all very fair, 
to be sure. Let me think ! what should I have ? 
Oh ! I will tell you. My reward shall be this. You 
shall give me all the information in your power about 
these murders in the Rue Morgue." 

Dupin said the last words in a very low tone, and 
very quietly. Just as quietly, too, he walked toward 
the door, locked it, and put the key in his pocket. He 
then drew a pistol from his bosom and placed it, with 
out the least flurry, upon the table. 

The sailor s face flushed up as if he were struggling 
with suffocation. He started to his feet and grasped 
his cudgel; but the next moment he fell back into his 
seat, trembling violently, and with the countenance of 
death itself. He spoke not a word. I pitied him from 
the bottom of my heart. 

" My friend," said Dupin, in a kind tone, " you are 
alarming yourself unnecessarily you are indeed. We 
mean you no harm whatever. I pledge you the honour 
of a gentleman, and of a Frenchman, that we intend 
you no injury. I perfectly well know that you are 
innocent of the atrocities in the Rue Morgue. It will 
not do, however, to deny that you are in some measure 
implicated in them. From what I have already said, 
you must know that I have had means of information 
about this matter means of which you could never 
have dreamed. Now the thing stands thus. You have 

285 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

done nothing which you could have avoided nothing, 
certainly, which renders you culpable. You were not 
even guilty of robbery, when you might have robbed 
with impunity. You have nothing to conceal. You 
have no reason for concealment. On the other hand, 
you are bound by every principle of honour to confess 
all you know. An innocent man is now imprisoned, 
charged with that crime of which you can point out 
the perpetrator." 

The sailor had recovered his presence of mind, in 
a great measure, while Dupin uttered these words ; but 
his original boldness of bearing was gone. 

" So help me God," said he, after a brief pause, " I 
will tell you all I know about this affair ; but I do not 
expect you to believe one half I say I would be a fool 
indeed if I did. Still, I am innocent, and I will make a 
clean breast if I die for it." 

What he stated was, in substance, this. He had 
lately made a voyage to the Indian Archipelago. A 
party, of which he formed one, landed at Borneo, and 
passed into the interior on an excursion of pleasure. 
Himself and a companion had captured the Ourang- 
Outang. This companion dying, the animal fell into 
his own exclusive possession. After great trouble, 
occasioned by the intractable ferocity of his captive 
during the home voyage, he at length succeeded in 
lodging it safely at his own residence in Paris, where, 
not to attract toward himself the unpleasant curiosity 
of his neighbours, he kept it carefully secluded, until 
such time as it should recover from a wound in the foot, 
received from a splinter on board ship. His ultimate 
design was to sell it. 

Returning home from some sailor s frolic on the 
night, or rather in the morning of the murder, he found 
286 



THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE 

the beast occupying his own bedroom, into which it 
had broken from a closet adjoining, where it had been, 
as was thought, securely confined. Razor in hand, and 
fully lathered, it was sitting before a looking-glass, 
attempting the operation of shaving, in which it had 
no doubt previously watched its master through the 
keyhole of the closet. Terrified at the sight of so 
dangerous a weapon in the possession of an animal so 
ferocious, and so well able to use it, the man, for some 
moments, was at a loss what to do. He had been 
accustomed, however, to quiet the creature, even in 
its fiercest moods, by the use of a whip, and to this he 
now resorted. Upon sight of it, the Ourang-Outang 
sprang at once through the door of the chamber, down 
the stairs, and thence, through a window, unfortunately 
open, into the street. 

The Frenchman followed in despair ; the ape, razor 
still in hand, occasionally stopping to look back and 
gesticulate at its pursuer, until the latter had nearly 
come up with it. It then again made off. In this 
manner the chase continued for a long time. The 
streets were profoundly quiet, as it was nearly three 
o clock in the morning. In passing down an alley in 
the rear of the Rue Morgue, the fugitive s attention 
was arrested by the light gleaming from the open 
window of Madame L Espanaye s chamber, in the 
fourth story of her house. Rushing to the building, 
it perceived the lightning-rod, clambered up it with 
inconceivable agility, grasped the shutter, which was 
thrown fully back against the wall, and, by its means, 
swung itself directly upon the head-board of the bed. 
The whole feat did not occupy a minute. The shutter 
was kicked open again by the Ourang-Outang as it 
entered the room. 

287 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

The sailor, in the meantime, was both rejoiced and 
perplexed. He had strong hopes of now recapturing 
the brute, as it could scarcely escape from the trap into 
which it had ventured, except by the rod, where it 
might be intercepted as it came down. On the other 
hand, there was much cause for anxiety as to what it 
might do in the house. This latter reflection urged the 
man still to follow the fugitive. A lightning-rod is 
ascended without difficulty, especially by a sailor ; but, 
when he had arrived as high as the window, which lay 
far to his left, his career was stopped ; the most that 
he could accomplish was to reach over so as to obtain a 
glimpse of the interior of the room. At this glimpse he 
nearly fell from his hold through excess of horror. Now 
it was that those hideous shrieks arose upon the night, 
which had startled from slumber the inmates of the 
Rue Morgue. Madame L Espanaye and her daughter, 
habited in their night clothes, had apparently been 
arranging some papers in the iron chest already men 
tioned, which had been wheeled into the middle of the 
room. It was open, and its contents lay beside it on 
the floor. The victims must have been sitting with 
their backs toward the window ; and, from the time 
elapsing between the ingress of the beast and the 
screams, it seems probable that it was not immediately 
perceived. The flapping-to of the shutter would 
naturally have been attributed to the wind. 
{- As the sailor looked in, the gigantic animal had 
seized Madame L Espanaye by the hair (which was 
loose, as she had been combing it), and was flourishing 
the razor about her face, in imitation of the motions of 
a barber. The daughter lay prostrate and motionless ; 
she had swooned. The screams and struggles of the old 
lady (during which the hair was torn from her head) 
288 



THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE 

had the effect of changing the probably pacific purposes 
of the Ourang-Outang into those of wrath. With one 
determined sweep of its muscular arm it nearly severed 
her head from her body. The sight of blood inflamed 
its anger into frenzy. Gnashing its teeth and flashing 
fire from its eyes, it flew upon the body of the girl, and 
embedded its fearful talons in her throat, retaining its 
grasp until she expired. Its wandering and wild 
glances fell at this moment upon the head of the bed, 
over which the face of its master, rigid with horror, was 
just discernible. The fury of the beast, who no doubt 
bore still in mind the dreaded whip, was instantly con 
verted into fear. Conscious of having deserved punish 
ment, it seemed desirous of concealing its bloody deeds, 
and skipped about the chamber in an agony of nervous 
agitation ; throwing down and breaking the furniture 
as it moved, and dragging the bed from the bedstead. 
In conclusion, it seized first the corpse of the daughter, 
and thrust it up the chimney, as it was found ; then 
that of the old lady, which it immediately hurled 
through the window headlong. 

As the ape approached the casement with its muti 
lated burthen, the sailor shrank aghast to the rod, and, 
rather gliding than clambering down it, hurried at 
once home dreading the consequences of the butchery, 
and gladly abandoning, in his terror, all solicitude 
about the fate of the Ourang-Outang. The words 
heard by the party upon the staircase were the French 
man s exclamations of horror and affright, commingled 
with the fiendish jabberings of the brute. 

I have scarcely anything to add. The Ourang- 
Outang must have escaped from the chamber by the 
rod, just before the breaking of the door. It must 
have closed the window as it passed through it. It 

T 289 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

was subsequently caught by the owner himself, who 
obtained for it a very large sum at the *Jardin des 
Plantes. Le Bon was instantly released, upon our 
narration of the circumstances (with some comments 
from Dupin) at the bureau of the Prefect of Police. 
This functionary, however well disposed to my friend, 
could not altogether conceal his chagrin at the turn 
which affairs had taken, and was fain to indulge in a 
sarcasm or two, about the propriety of every person 
minding his own business. 

" Let him talk," said Dupin, who had not thought 
it necessary to reply. " Let him discourse; it will ease 
his conscience. I am satisfied with having defeated 
him in his own castle. Nevertheless, that he failed in 
the solution of this mystery is by no means that matter 
for wonder which he supposes it; for in truth, our 
friend the Prefect is somewhat too cunning to be pro 
found. In his wisdom is no stamen. It is all head and 
no body, like the pictures of the Goddess Laverna or, 
at best, all head and shoulders, like a codfish. But he 
is a good creature after all. I like him especially for 
one master-stroke of cant, by which he has attained 
his reputation for ingenuity. I mean the way he has 
de nier ce qui est^ et d expliquer ce qui nest pas " * 

* Rousseau, Nouvttte Helo ise. 



290 



THE BLACK CAT 

FOR the most wild yet most homely narrative 
which I am about to pen I neither expect nor 
solicit belief. Mad indeed would I be to 
expect it in a case where my very senses reject 
their own evidence. Yet, mad am I not : and very 
surely do I not dream. But to-morrow I die, and to 
day I would unburden my soul. My immediate 
purpose is to place before the world, plainly, succinctly, 
and without comment, a series of mere household 
events. In their consequences, those events have terri 
fied have tortured have destroyed me. Yet I will 
not attempt to expound them. To me, they have 
presented little but Horror ; to many they will seem 
less terrible than baroques. Hereafter, perhaps, some 
intellect may be found which will reduce my phantasm 
to the commonplace ; some intellect more calm, more 
logical, and far less excitable than my own, which will 
perceive, in the circumstances I detail with awe, nothing 
more than an ordinary succession of very natural causes 
and effects. 

From my infancy I was noted for the docility and 
humanity of my disposition. My tenderness of heart 
was even so conspicuous as to make me the jest of my 
companions. I was especially fond of animals, and was 
indulged by my parents with a great variety of pets. 
With these I spent most of my time, and never was so 
happy as when feeding and caressing them. This 
peculiarity of character grew with my growth, and in 
my manhood I derived from it one of my principal 
sources of pleasure. To those who have cherished an 
affection for a faithful and sagacious dog, I need hardly 
be at the trouble of explaining the nature or the 
intensity of the gratification thus derivable. There is 

291 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

something in the unselfish and self-sacrificing love of a 
brute which goes directly to the heart of him who has 
had frequent occasion to test the paltry friendship and 
gossamer fidelity of mere Man. 

I married early, and was happy to find in my wife 
a disposition not uncongenial with my own. Observing 
my partiality for domestic pets, she lost no opportunity 
of procuring those of the most agreeable kind. We had 
birds, goldfish, a fine dog, rabbits, a small monkey, and 
a cat. 

This latter was a remarkably large and beautiful 
animal, entirely black, and sagacious to an astonishing 
degree. In speaking of his intelligence, my wife, who 
at heart was not a little tinctured with superstition, made 
frequent allusion to the ancient popular notion which 
regarded all black cats as witches in disguise. Not 
that she was ever serious upon this point and I mention 
the matter at all for no better reason than that it 
happens, just now, to be remembered. 

Pluto this was the cat s name was my favourite 
pet and playmate. I alone fed him, and he attended 
me wherever I went about the house. It was even 
with difficulty that I could prevent him from following 
me through the streets. 

Our friendship lasted in this manner for several 
years, during which my general temperament and 
character, through the instrumentality of the fiend 
Intemperance, had (I blush to confess it) experienced a 
radical alteration for the worse. I grew, day by day, 
more moody, more irritable, more regardless of the 
feelings of others. I suffered myself to use intemperate 
language to my wife. At length, I even offered her 
personal violence. My pets, of course, were made to 
feel the change in my disposition. I not only neglected 
292 



THE BLACK CAT 

but ill-used them. For Pluto, however, I still retained 
sufficient regard to restrain me from maltreating him, 
as I made no scruple of maltreating the rabbits, the 
monkey, or even the dog, when by accident, or through 
affection, they came in my way. But my disease grew 
upon me for what disease is like alcohol ? and at 
length even Pluto, who was now becoming old, and 
consequently somewhat peevish even Pluto began to 
experience the effects of my ill-temper. 

One night, returning home much intoxicated from 
one of my haunts about town, I fancied that the cat 
avoided my presence. I seized him ; when, in his 
fright at my violence, he inflicted a slight wound upon 
my hand with his teeth. The fury of a demon instantly 
possessed me. I knew myself no longer. My original 
soul seemed, at once, to take its flight from my body ; 
and a more than fiendish malevolence, gin-nurtured, 
thrilled every fibre of my frame. I took from my 
waistcoat pocket a pen-knife, opened it, grasped the 
poor beast by the throat, and deliberately cut one of its 
eyes from the socket ! I blush, I burn, I shudder, 
while I pen the damnable atrocity. 

When reason returned with the morning when I 
had slept off the fumes of the night s debauch I 
experienced a sentiment half of horror, half of remorse, 
for the crime of which I had been guilty ; but it was, 
at best, a feeble and equivocal feeling, and the soul 
remained untouched. I again plunged into excess, and 
soon drowned in wine all memory of the deed. 

In the meantime the cat slowly recovered. The 
socket of the lost eye presented, it is true, a frightful 
appearance, but he no longer appeared to suffer any 
pain. He went about the house as usual, but, as might 
be expected, fled in extreme terror at my approach. I 

293 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

had so much of my old heart left, as to be at first 
grieved by this evident dislike on the part of a creature 
which had once so loved me. But this feeling soon 
gave place to irritation. And then came, as if to my 
final and irrevocable overthrow, the spirit of PERVERSE- 
NESS. Of this spirit philosophy takes no account. Yet 
I am not more sure that my soul lives than I am that 
perverseness is one of the primitive impulses of the 
human heart : one of the indivisible primary faculties, 
or sentiments, which give direction to the character of 
man. Who has not, a hundred times, found himself 
committing a vile or a silly action, for no other reason 
than because he knows he should not? Have we not 
a perpetual inclination, in the teeth of our best judg 
ment, to violate that which is /aw, merely because we 
understand it to be such ? This spirit of perverseness, 
I say, came to my final overthrow. It was this un 
fathomable longing of the soul to vex itself- to offer 
violence to its own nature to do wrong for the 
wrong s sake only that urged me to continue and 
finally to consummate the injury I had inflicted upon 
the unoffending brute. One morning, in cool blood, 
I slipped a noose about its neck and hung it to the limb 
of a tree ; hung it with the tears streaming from my 
eyes, and with the bitterest remorse at my heart ; hung 
it because I knew that it had loved me, and because I 
felt it had given me no reason of offence ; hung it 
because I knew that in so doing I was committing a 
sin a deadly sin that would so jeopardise my immortal 
soul as to place it if such a thing were possible even 
beyond the reach of the infinite mercy of the Most 
Merciful and Most Terrible God. 

On the night of the day on which this cruel deed 
was done, I was aroused from sleep by the cry of fire. 
294 



THE BLACK CAT 

The curtains of my bed were in flames. The whole 
house was blazing. It was with great difficulty that my 
wife, a servant, and myself, made our escape from the 
conflagration. The destruction was complete. My 
entire worldly wealth was swallowed up, and I resigned 
myself thenceforward to despair. 

I am above the weakness of seeking to establish a 
sequence of cause and effect, between the disaster and 
the atrocity. But I am detailing a chain of facts, and 
wish not to leave even a possible link imperfect. On 
the day succeeding the fire, I visited the ruins. The 
walls, with one exception, had fallen in. This exception 
was found in a compartment wall, not very thick, 
which stood about the middle of the house, and against 
which had rested the head of my bed. The plastering 
had here, in great measure, resisted the action of the 
fire a fact which I attributed to its having been 
recently spread. About this wall a dense crowd were 
collected, and many persons seemed to be examining a 
particular portion of it with very minute and eager 
attention. The words " strange ! " " singular ! " and 
other similar expressions, excited my curiosity. I 
approached and suw, as if graven in bas relief upon the 
white surface, the figure of a gigantic cat. The 
impression was given with an accuracy truly marvellous. 
There was a rope about the animal s neck. 

When I first beheld this apparition for I could 
scarcely regard it as less my wonder and my terror 
were extreme. But at length reflection came to my 
aid. The cat, I remembered, had been hung in a 
garden adjacent to the house. Upon the alarm of fire, 
this garden had been immediately filled by the crowd 
by some one of whom the animal must have been cut 
from the tree and thrown, through an open window, 

295 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

into my chamber. This had probably been done with 
the view of arousing me from sleep. The falling of 
other walls had compressed the victim of my cruelty 
into the substance of the freshly-spread plaster ; the 
lime of which, with the flames, and the ammonia from 
the carcass, had then accomplished the portraiture as I 
saw it. 

Although I thus readily accounted to my reason, if 
not altogether to my conscience, for the startling fact 
just detailed, it did not the less fail to make a deep 
impression upon my fancy. For months I could not 
rid myself of the phantasm of the cat ; and during this 
period there came back into my spirit a half-sentiment 
that seemed, but was not, remorse. I went so far as to 
regret the loss of the animal, and to look about me, 
among the vile haunts which I now habitually fre 
quented, for another pet of the same species, and of 
somewhat similar appearance, with which to supply its 
place. 

One night as I sat, half-stupefied, in a den of more 
than infamy, my attention was suddenly drawn to some 
black object, reposing upon the head of one of the 
immense hogsheads of gin, or of rum, which constituted 
the chief furniture of the apartment. I had been look 
ing steadily at the top of this hogshead for some minutes, 
and what now caused me surprise was the fact that I 
had not sooner perceived the object thereupon. I 
approached it, and touched it with my hand. It was a 
black cat a very large one fully as large as Pluto, 
and closely resembling him in every respect but one. 
Pluto had not a white hair upon any portion of his 
body ; but this cat had a large, although indefinite 
splotch of white, nearly covering the whole region t of 
the breast. 
296 



THE BLACK CAT 

Upon my touching him, he immediately arose, 
purred loudly, rubbed against my hand, and appeared 
delighted with my notice. This, then, was the very 
creature of which I was in search. 1 at once offered 
to purchase it of the landlord ; but this person made 
no claim to it knew nothing of it had never seen it 
before. 

I continued my caresses, and, when I prepared to go 
home, the animal evinced a disposition to accompany 
me. I permitted it to do so ; occasionally stooping and 
patting it as I proceeded. When it reached the house, 
it domesticated itself at once, and became immediately 
a great favourite with my wife. 

For my own part, I soon found a dislike to it 
arising within me. This was just the reverse of what 
I had anticipated; but I know not how or why it 
was its evident fondness for myself rather disgusted 
and annoyed. By slow degrees, these feelings of disgust 
and annoyance rose into the bitterness of hatred. I 
avoided the creature; a certain sense of shame, and the 
remembrance of my former deed of cruelty, prevented 
me from physically abusing it. I did not, for some 
weeks, strike or otherwise violently ill use it; but 
gradually very gradually I came to look upon it 
with unutterable loathing, and to flee silently from its 
odious presence, as from the breath of a pestilence. 

What added, no doubt, to my hatred of the beast, 
was the discovery, on the morning after I brought it 
home, that, like Pluto, it had also been deprived of 
one of its eyes. This circumstance, however, only en 
deared it to my wife, who, as I have already said, 
possessed in a high degree, that humanity of feeling 
which had once been my distinguishing trait, and the 
source of many of my simplest and purest pleasures^ -\ 

297 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

With my aversion to this cat, however, its partiality 
for myself seemed to increase. It followed my foot 
steps with a pertinacity which it would be difficult to 
make the reader comprehend. Whenever I sat, it 
would crouch beneath my chair, or spring upon my 
knees, covering me with its loathsome caresses. If I 
arose to walk, it would get between my feet and thus 
nearly throw me down, or, fastening its long and sharp 
claws in my dress, clamber, in this manner, to my 
breast. At such times, although I longed to destroy 
it with a blow, I was yet withheld from so doing, 
partly by a memory of my former crime, but chiefly 
let me confess it at once by absolute dread of the 
beast. 

This dread was not exactly a dread of physical evil 
and yet I should be at a loss how otherwise to define 
it. I am almost ashamed to own yes, even in this 
felon s cell, I am almost ashamed to own that the 
terror and horror with which the animal inspired me, 
had been heightened by one of the merest chimeras it 
would be possible to conceive. My wife had called my 
attention, more than once, to the character of the mark 
of white hair, of which I have spoken, and which con 
stituted the sole visible difference between the strange 
beast and the one I had destroyed. The reader will 
remember that this mark, although large, had been 
originally very indefinite ; but, by slow degrees de 
grees nearly imperceptible, and which for a long time 
my reason struggled to reject as fanciful it had, at 
length, assumed a rigorous distinctness of outline. It 
was now the representation of an object that I shudder 
to name ; and for this, above all, I loathed, and dreaded, 
and would have rid myself of the monster had I dared ; 
it was now, I say, the image of a hideous of a ghastly 
298 



THE BLACK CAT 

thing of the GALLOWS ! oh, mournful and terrible 
engine of Horror and of Crime of Agony and of Death ! 

And now was I indeed wretched, beyond the 
wretchedness of mere humanity. And a brute beast 
whose fellow I had contemptuously destroyed a brute 
beast to work out for me for me, a man, fashioned in 
the image of the High God so much of insufferable 
woe ! Alas ! neither by day nor by night knew I the 
blessing of rest any more ! During the former the 
creature left me no moment alone ; and, in the latter, 
I started, hourly, from dreams of unutterable fear, to 
find the hot breath of the thing upon my face, and its 
vast weight an incarnate nightmare that I had no 
power to shake off incumbent eternally upon my 
heart ! 

Beneath the pressure of torments such as these, the 
feeble remnant of the good within me succumbed. Evil 
thoughts became my sole intimates the darkest and 
most evil of thoughts. The moodiness of my usual 
temper increased to hatred of all things and of all man 
kind ; while, from the sudden, frequent, and ungovern 
able outbursts of a fury to which I now blindly 
abandoned myself, my uncomplaining wife, alas ! was 
the most usual and the most patient of sufferers. 

One day she accompanied me, upon some household 
errand, into the cellar of the old building which our 
poverty compelled us to inhabit. The cat followed me 
down the steep stairs, and, nearly throwing me head 
long, exasperated me to madness. Uplifting an axe, 
and forgetting, in my wrath, the childish dread which 
had hitherto stayed my hand, I aimed a blow at the 
animal which, of course, would have proved instantly 
fatal had it descended as I wished. But this blow was 
arrested by the hand of my wife. Goaded, by the 

299 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

interference, into a rage more than demoniacal, I 
withdrew my arm from her grasp and buried the axe 
in her brain. She fell dead upon the spot, without a 
groan. 

This hideous murder accomplished, I set myself 
forthwith, and with entire deliberation, to the task of 
concealing the body. I knew that I could not remove 
it from the house, either by day or night, without the 
risk of being observed by the neighbours. Many pro 
jects entered my mind. At one period I thought of 
cutting the corpse into minute fragments, and destroying 
them by fire. At another, I resolved to dig a grave 
for it in the floor of the cellar. Again, I deliberated 
about casting it in the well in the yard about pack 
ing it in a box, as if merchandise, with the usual 
arrangements, and so getting a porter to take it 
from the house. Finally I hit upon what I considered 
a far better expedient than either of these. I deter 
mined to wall it up in the cellar as the monks of 
the middle ages are recorded to have walled up their 
victims. 

For a purpose such as this the cellar was well adapted. 
Its walls were loosely constructed, and had lately been 
plastered throughout with a rough plaster, which the 
dampness of the atmosphere had prevented from 
hardening. Moreover, in one of the walls was a pro 
jection, caused by a false chimney, or fireplace, that had 
been filled up, and made to resemble the rest of the 
cellar. I made no doubt that I could readily displace 
the bricks at this point, insert the corpse, and wall the 
whole up as before, so that no eye could detect anything 
suspicious. 

And in this calculation I was not deceived. By 
means of a crowbar I easily dislodged the bricks, and 
300 



THE BLACK CAT 

having carefully deposited the body against the inner 
wall, I propped it in that position, while, with little 
trouble, I relaid the whole structure as it originally 
stood. Having procured mortar, sand, and hair, with 
every possible precaution, I prepared a plaster which 
could not be distinguished from the old, and with this 
I very carefully went over the new brickwork. When 
I had finished, I felt satisfied that all was right. The 
wall did not present the slightest appearance of having 
been disturbed. The rubbish on the floor was picked 
up with the minutest care. I looked around trium 
phantly, and said to myself, " Here at least, then, my 
labour has not been in vain." 

My next step was to look for the beast which had 
been the cause of so much wretchedness ; for I had, 
at length, firmly resolved to put it to death. Had I 
been able to meet with it, at the moment, there could 
have been no doubt of its fate ; but it appeared that 
the crafty animal had been alarmed at the violence of 
my previous anger, and forbore to present itself in 
my present mood. It is impossible to describe, or to 
imagine, the deep, the blissful sense of relief which 
the absence of the detested creature occasioned in my 
bosom. It did not make its appearance during the 
night and thus for one night at least, since its introduc 
tion into the house, I soundly and tranquilly slept ; ay, 
slept even with the burden of murder upon my soul ! 

The second and the third day passed, and still my 
tormentor came not. Once again I breathed as a free 
man. The monster, in terror, had fled the premises for 
ever ! I should behold it no more ! My happiness 
was supreme ! The guilt of my dark deed disturbed 
me but little. Some few inquiries had been made, but 
these had been readily answered. Even a search had 

301 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

been instituted but of course nothing was to be dis 
covered. I looked upon my future felicity as secured. 

Upon the fourth day of the assassination, a party of 
the police came unexpectedly into the house, and pro 
ceeded again to make rigorous investigation of the 
premises. Secure, however, in the inscrutability of my 
place of concealment, I felt no embarrassment whatever. 
The officers bade me accompany them in their search. 
They left no nook or corner unexplored. At length, 
for the third or fourth time, they descended into the 
cellar. I quivered not in a muscle. My heart beat 
calmly as that of one who slumbers in innocence. I 
walked the cellar from end to end. I folded my arms 
upon my bosom, and roamed easily to and fro. The 
police were thoroughly satisfied and prepared to depart. 
The glee at my heart was too strong to be restrained. 
I burned to say if but one word, by way of triumph, 
and to render doubly sure their assurance of my guilt 
lessness. 

" Gentlemen," I said at last, as the party ascended 
the steps, " I delight to have allayed your suspicions. I 
wish you all health, and a little more courtesy. By- 
the-bye, gentlemen, this this is a very well-constructed 
house." (In the rabid desire to say something easily, I 
scarcely knew what I uttered at all.) " I may say an 
excellently well-constructed house. These walls are 
you going, gentlemen ? these walls are solidly put 
together ; " and here, through the mere phrensy of 
bravado, I rapped heavily, with a cane which I held in 
my hand, upon that very portion of the brickwork 
behind which stood the corpse of the wife of my 
bosom. 

But may God shield and deliver me from the fangs 
of the Arch-Fiend ! No sooner had the reverberation 
302 



THE BLACK CAT 

of my blows sunk into silence, than I was answered by 
a voice from within the tomb ! by a cry, at first 
muffled and broken, like the sobbing of a child, and 
then quickly swelling into one long, loud, and con 
tinuous scream, utterly anomalous and inhuman a howl 
a wailing shriek, half of horror and half of triumph, 
such as might have arisen only out of hell, conjointly 
from the throats of the damned in their agony and of the 
demons that exult in the damnation. 

Of my own thoughts it is folly to speak. Swooning, 
I staggered to the opposite wall. For one instant the 
party upon the stairs remained motionless, through 
extremity of terror and of awe. In the next, a dozen 
stout arms were toiling at the wall. It fell bodily. 
The corpse, although greatly decayed and clotted with 
gore, stood erect before the eyes of the spectators. 
Upon its head, with red extended mouth and solitary 
eye of fire, sat the hideous beast whose craft had seduced 
me into murder, and whose informing voice had con 
signed me to the hangman. I had walled the monster 
up within the tomb ! 



33 



THE SPECTACLES 

MANY years ago, it was the fashion to ridi 
cule the idea of " love at first sight ; " but 
those who think, not less than those who 
feel deeply, have always advocated its exist 
ence. Modern discoveries, indeed, in what may be 
termed ethical magnetism or magneto-aesthetics, render 
it probable that the most natural, and, consequently, the 
truest and most intense of the human affections are those 
which arise in the heart as if by electric sympathy in 
a word, that the brightest and most enduring of the 
psychal fetters are those which are riveted by a glance. 
The confession I am about to make will add another to 
the already almost innumerable instances of the truth of 
the position. 

My story requires that I should be somewhat 
minute. I am still a very young man not yet twenty- 
two years of age. My name, at present, is a very 
usual and rather plebeian one Simpson. I say " at 
present ; " for it is only lately that I have been so called 
having legislatively adopted this surname within the 
last year, in order to receive a large inheritance left me 
by a distant male relative, Adolphus Simpson, Esq. The 
bequest was conditioned upon my taking the name of 
the testator the family, not the Christian name ; my 
Christian name is Napoleon Bonaparte or, more pro 
perly, these are my first and middle appellations. 

I assumed the name, Simpson, with some reluctance, 
as in my true patronym, Froissart, I felt a very pardon 
able pride believing I could trace a descent from the 
immortal author of the Chronicles. While on the subject 
of names, by-the-by, I may mention a singular coin 
cidence of sound attending the names of some of my 
immediate predecessors. My father was a Monsieur 

u 305 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

Froissart, of Paris. His wife my mother, whom he 
married at fifteen was a Mademoiselle Croissart, eldest 
daughter of Croissart the banker ; whose wife, again, 
being only sixteen when married, was the eldest daughter 
of one Victor Voissart. Monsieur Voissart, very singu 
larly, had married a lady of similar name a Made 
moiselle Moissart. She, too, was quite a child when 
married ; and her mother, also, Madame Moissart, was 
only fourteen when led to the altar. These early mar 
riages are usual in France. Here, however, are Moissart, 
Voissart, Croissart, and Froissart, all in the direct line of 
descent. My own name, though, as I say, became 
Simpson, by act of Legislature, and with so much 
repugnance on my part, that, at one period, I actually 
hesitated about accepting the legacy with the useless 
and annoying proviso attached. 

As to personal endowments, I am by no means 
deficient. On the contrary, I believe that I am well 
made, and possess what nine-tenths of the world would 
call a handsome face. In height I am five feet eleven. 
My hair is black and curling. My nose is sufficiently 
good. My eyes are large and gray ; and although, in 
fact, they are weak to a very inconvenient degree, still 
no defect in this regard would be suspected from their 
appearance. The weakness itself, however, has always 
much annoyed me, and I have resorted to every remedy 
short of wearing glasses. Being youthful and good- 
looking, I naturally dislike these, and have absolutely 
refused to employ them. I know nothing, indeed, which 
so disfigures the countenance of a young person, or so 
impresses every feature with an air of demureness, if not 
altogether of sanctimoniousness and of age. An eye 
glass, on the other hand, has a savour of downright 
foppery and affectation. I have hitherto managed as 
306 



THE SPECTACLES 

well as I could without either. But something too 
much of these merely personal details, which, after all, 
are of little importance. I will content myself with 
saying, in addition, that my temperament is sanguine, 
rash, ardent, enthusiastic and that all my life I have 
been a devoted admirer of the women. 

One night last winter I entered a box at the P 

Theatre, in company with a friend, Mr. Talbot. It 
was an opera night, and the bills presented a very rare 
attraction, so that the house was excessively crowded. 
We were in time, however, to obtain the front seats 
which had been reserved for us, and into which, with 
some little difficulty, we elbowed our way. 

For two hours my companion, who was a musical 
f anatico^ gave his undivided attention to the stage; and, 
in the meantime, I amused myself by observing the 
audience, which consisted, in chief part, of the very 
elite of the city. Having satisfied myself upon this 
point, I was about turning my eyes to the prlma donna^ 
when they were arrested and riveted by a figure in one 
of the private boxes which had escaped my observation. 

If I live a thousand years I can never forget the 
intense emotion with which I regarded this figure. It 
was that of a female, the most exquisite I had ever 
beheld. The face was so far turned toward the stage 
that, for some minutes, I could not obtain a view of it 
but the form was divine ; no other word can sufficiently 
express its magnificent proportion and even the term 
" divine " seems ridiculously feeble as I write it. 

The magic of a lovely form in woman the necro 
mancy of female gracefulness was always a power 
which I had found it impossible to resist; but here was 
grace personified, incarnate, the beau ideal of my wildest 
and most enthusiastic visions. The figure, almost all 

307 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

of which the construction of the box permitted to be 
seen, was somewhat above the medium height, and 
nearly approached, without positively reaching, the 
majestic. Its perfect fulness and tournure were delicious. 
The head, of which only the back was visible, rivalled 
in outline that of the Greek Psyche, and was rather 
displayed than concealed by an elegant cap of gaze 
derienne, which put me in mind of the iientum textilem 
of Apuleius. The right arm hung over the balustrade 
of the box, and thrilled every nerve of my frame 
with its exquisite symmetry. Its upper portion was 
draperied by one of the loose open sleeves now in 
fashion. This extended but little below the elbow. 
Beneath it was worn an under one of some frail material, 
close-fitting, and terminated by a cuff of rich lace, 
which fell gracefully over the top of the hand revealing 
only the delicate fingers, upon one of which sparkled a 
diamond ring, which I at once saw was of extraordinary 
value. The admirable roundness of the wrist was well 
set off by a bracelet which encircled it, and which also 
was ornamented and clasped by a magnificent aigrette 
of jewels telling, in words that could not be mis 
taken, at once of the wealth and fastidious taste of the 
wearer. 

I gazed at this queenly apparition for at least half 
an hour, as if I had been suddenly converted to stone; 
and, during this period, I felt the full force and truth 
of all that has been said or sung concerning " love at 
first sight." My feelings were totally different from 
any which I had hitherto experienced, in the presence 
of even the most celebrated specimens of female loveli 
ness. An unaccountable, and what I am compelled to 
consider a magnetic, sympathy of soul for soul, seemed 
to rivet, not only my vision, but my whole powers of 



THE SPECTACLES 

thought and feeling, upon the admirable object before 
me. I saw I felt I knew that I was deeply, madly, 
irrevocably in love and this even before seeing the 
face of the person beloved. So intense, indeed, was the 
passion that consumed me, that I really believed it 
would have received little if any abatement had the 
features, yet unseen, proved of merely ordinary cha 
racter ; so anomalous is the nature of the only true love 
of the love at first sight and so little really dependent 
is it upon the external conditions which only seem to 
create and control it. 

While I was thus wrapped in admiration of this 
lovely vision, a sudden disturbance among the audience 
caused her to turn her head partially toward me, so 
that I beheld the entire profile of the face. Its beauty 
even exceeded my anticipations and yet there was 
something about it which disappointed me without 
my being able to tell exactly what it was. I said 
"disappointed," but this is not altogether the word. 
My sentiments were at once quieted and exalted. They 
partook less of transport and more of calm enthusiasm 
of enthusiastic repose. This state of feeling arose, 
perhaps, from the Madonna-like and matronly air of 
the face ; and yet I at once understood that it could not 
have arisen entirely from this. There was something 
else some mystery which I could not develop some 
expression about the countenance which slightly dis 
turbed me while it greatly heightened my interest. In 
fact, I was just in that condition of mind which pre 
pares a young and susceptible man for any act of 
extravagance. Had the lady been alone, I should 
undoubtedly have entered her box and accosted her at 
all hazards ; but, fortunately, she was attended by two 
companions a gentleman, and a strikingly beautiful 

39 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

woman, to all appearance a few years younger than 
herself. 

I revolved in my mind a thousand schemes by 
which I might obtain, hereafter, an introduction to the 
elder lady, or, for the present, at all events, a more 
distinct view of her beauty. I would have removed 
my position to one nearer her own, but the crowded 
state of the theatre rendered this impossible ; and the 
stern decrees of Fashion had, of late, imperatively 
prohibited the use of the opera-glass, in a case such as 
this, even had I been so fortunate as to have one with 
me but I had not and was thus in despair. 

At length I bethought me of applying to my com 
panion. 

" Talbot," I said, "you have an opera-glass. Let me 
have it." 

" An opera-glass ! no ! what do you suppose 1 
would be doing with an opera-glass ? " Here he turned 
impatiently toward the stage. 

" But, Talbot," I continued, pulling him by the 
shoulder, " listen to me, will you ? Do you see the 
stage-box ? there ! no, the next. Did you ever 
behold as lovely a woman ? " 

" She is very beautiful, no doubt," he said. 

" I wonder who she can be ? " 

" Why, in the name of all that is angelic, don t you 
know who she is ? c Not to know her argues yourself 
unknown. She is the celebrated Madame Lalande 
the beauty of the day par excellence^ and the talk of the 
whole town. Immensely wealthy too a widow and 
a great match has just arrived from Paris." 

" Do you know her ? " 

" Yes I have the honour." 

" Will you introduce me ? " 
310 



THE SPECTACLES 

" Assuredly with the greatest pleasure ; when 
shall it be ? " 

" To-morrow, at one, I will call upon you at 
B V 

" Very good ; and now do hold your tongue, if 
you can." 

In this latter respect I was forced to take Talbot s 
advice ; for he remained obstinately deaf to every 
further question or suggestion, and occupied himself 
exclusively for the rest of the evening with what was 
transacting upon the stage. 

In the meantime I kept my eyes riveted on Madame 
Lalande, and at length had the good fortune to obtain a 
full front view of her face. It was exquisitely lovely : 
this, of course, my heart had told me before, even had 
not Talbot fully satisfied me upon the point but still 
the unintelligible something disturbed me. I finally 
concluded that my senses were impressed by a certain 
air of gravity, sadness, or, still more properly, of weari 
ness, which took something from the youth and freshness 
of the countenance, only to endow it with a seraphic 
tenderness and majesty, and thus, of course, to my 
enthusiastic and romantic temperament, with an interest 
tenfold. 

While I thus feasted my eyes, I perceived, at last, 
to my great trepidation, by an almost imperceptible 
start on the part of the lady, that she had become 
suddenly aware of the intensity of my gaze. Still, I 
was absolutely fascinated, and could not withdraw it, 
even for an instant. She turned aside her face, and 
again I saw only the chiselled contour of the back 
portion of the head. After some minutes, as if urged 
by curiosity to see if I was still looking, she gradually 
brought her face again around and again encountered 

3 11 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

my burning gaze. Her large dark eyes fell instantly, 
and a deep blush mantled her cheek. But what was my 
astonishment at perceiving that she not only did not a 
second time avert her head, but that she actually took 
from her girdle a double eye-glass elevated it adjusted 
it and then regarded me through it, intently and 
deliberately, for the space of several minutes. 

Had a thunderbolt fallen at my feet I could not 
have been more thoroughly astounded astounded only 
not offended or disgusted in the slightest degree ; 
although an action so bold in any other woman would 
have been likely to offend or disgust. But the whole 
thing was done with so much quietude so much non 
chalance so much repose with so evident an air ot 
the highest breeding, in short that nothing of mere 
effrontery was perceptible, and my sole sentiments were 
those of admiration and surprise. 

I observed that, upon her first elevation of the glass, 
she had seemed satisfied with a momentary inspection 
of my person, and was withdrawing the instrument, 
when, as if struck by a second thought, she resumed it, 
and so continued to regard me with fixed attention for 
the space of several minutes for five minutes, at the 
very least, I am sure. 

This action, so remarkable in an American theatre, 
attracted very general observation, and gave rise to an 
indefinite movement, or buzz, among the audience, 
which, for a moment, filled me with confusion, but 
produced no visible effect upon the countenance of 
Madame Lalande. 

Having satisfied her curiosity if such it was she 
dropped the glass, and quietly gave her attention again 
to the stage ; her profile now being turned toward 
myself, as before. I continued to watch her unremit- 
312 



THE SPECTACLES 

tingly, although I was fully conscious of my rudeness 
in so doing. Presently I saw the head slowly and 
slightly change its position ; and soon I became con 
vinced that the lady, while pretending to look at the 
stage was, in fact, attentively regarding myself. It is 
needless to say what effect this conduct, on the part of 
so fascinating a woman, had upon my excitable mind. 

Having thus scrutinised me for perhaps a quarter of 
an hour, the fair object of my passion addressed the 
gentleman who attended her, and, while she spoke, I 
saw distinctly, by the glances of both, that the conversa 
tion had reference to myself. 

Upon its conclusion, Madame Lalande again turned 
toward the stage, and, for a few minutes, seemed 
absorbed in the performances. At the expiration of this 
period, however, I was thrown into an extremity of 
agitation by seeing her unfold, for the second time, 
the eye-glass which hung at her side, fully confront me 
as before, and, disregarding the renewed buzz of the 
audience, survey me, from head to foot, with the same 
miraculous composure which had previously so de 
lighted and confounded my soul. 

This extraordinary behaviour, by throwing me into 
a perfect fever of excitement into an absolute delirium 
of love served rather to embolden than to disconcert me. 
In the mad intensity of my devotion, I forgot every 
thing but the presence and the majestic loveliness of 
the vision which confronted my gaze. Watching my 
opportunity, when I thought the audience were fully 
engaged with the opera, I at length caught the eyes of 
Madame Lalande, and, upon the instant, made a slight 
but unmistakable bow. 

She blushed very deeply then averted her eyes 
then slowly and cautiously looked around, apparently to 

3*3 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

see if my rash action had been noticed then leaned 
over toward the gentleman who sat by her side. 

I now felt a burning sense of the impropriety I 
had committed, and expected nothing less than instant 
exposure ; while a vision of pistols upon the morrow 
floated rapidly and uncomfortably through my brain. 
I was greatly and immediately relieved, however, when 
I saw the lady merely hand the gentleman a play-bill, 
without speaking ; but the reader may form some feeble 
conception of my astonishment of my profound amaze 
ment my delirious bewilderment of heart and soul 
when, instantly afterward, having again glanced fur 
tively around, she allowed her bright eyes to set fully 
and steadily upon my own, and then, with a faint smile, 
disclosing a bright line of her pearly teeth, made two 
distinct, pointed, and unequivocal affirmative inclina 
tions of the head. 

It is useless, of course, to dwell upon my joy upon 
my transport upon my illimitable ecstasy of heart. 
If ever man was mad with excess of happiness, it was 
myself at that moment. I loved. This was my first 
love so I felt it to be. It was love supreme inde 
scribable. It was " love at first sight ; " and at first 
sight, too, it had been appreciated and returned. 

Yes, returned. How and why should I doubt it 
for an instant ? What other construction could I 
possibly put upon such conduct, on the part of a lady 
so beautiful so wealthy evidently so accomplished 
of so high breeding of so lofty a position in society 
in every regard so entirely respectable as I felt assured 
was Madame Lalande ? Yes, she loved me she 
returned the enthusiasm of my love, with an enthusiasm 
as blind as uncompromising as uncalculating as 
abandoned and as utterly unbounded as my own ! 

3H 



THE SPECTACLES 

These delicious fancies and reflections, however, were 
now interrupted by the falling of the drop-curtain. 
The audience arose ; and the usual tumult immediately 
supervened. Quitting Talbot abruptly, I made every 
effort to force my way into closer proximity with 
Madame Lalande. Having failed in this, on account of 
the crowd, I at length gave up the chase, and bent my 
steps homeward ; consoling myself for my disappoint 
ment in not having been able to touch even the hem of 
her robe, by the reflection that I should be introduced 
by Talbot, in due form, upon the morrow. 

This morrow at last came ; that is to say, a day 
finally dawned upon a long and weary night of im 
patience ; and then the hours until " one " were snail- 
paced, dreary, and innumerable. But even Stamboul, 
it is said, shall have an end, and there came an end to 
this long delay. The clock struck. As the last echo 
ceased, I stepped into B s and inquired for Talbot. 

" Out," said the footman Talbot s own. 

" Out ! " I replied, staggering back half a dozen 
paces " let me tell you, my fine fellow, that this 
thing is thoroughly impossible and impracticable ; Mr. 
Talbot is not out. What do you mean ? " 

" Nothing, sir ; only Mr. Talbot is not in. That s 
all. He rode over to S , immediately after break 
fast, and left word that he would not be in town again 
for a week." 

I stood petrified with horror and rage. I en 
deavoured to reply, but my tongue refused its office. 
At length I turned on my heel, livid with wrath, and 
inwardly consigning the whole tribe of the Talbots to 
the innermost regions of Erebus. It was evident that 
my considerate friend, il fanatic o^ had quite forgotten 
his appointment with myself had forgotten it as soon 

3 5 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

as it was made. At no time was he a very scrupulous 
man of his word. There was no help for it ; so 
smothering my vexation as well as I could, I strolled 
moodily up the street, propounding futile inquiries 
about Madame Lalande to every male acquaintance I 
met. By report she was known, I found, to all to 
many by sight but she had been in town only a few 
weeks, and there were very few, therefore, who claimed 
her personal acquaintance. These few, being still com 
paratively strangers, could not, or would not, take the 
liberty of introducing me through the formality of a 
morning call. While I stood thus, in despair, conversing 
with a trio of friends upon the all-absorbing subject of my 
heart, it so happened that the subject itself passed by. 

" As I live, there she is ! " cried one. 

" Surprisingly beautiful ! " exclaimed a second. 

" An angel upon earth ! " ejaculated a third. 

I looked ; and in an open carriage which approached 
us, passing slowly down the street, sat the enchanting 
vision of the opera, accompanied by the younger lady 
who had occupied a portion of her box. 

" Her companion also wears remarkably well," said 
the one of my trio who had spoken first. 

" Astonishingly," said the second ; " still quite a 
brilliant air ; but art will do wonders. Upon my word, 
she looks better than she did at Paris five years ago. A 
beautiful woman still ; don t you think so, Froissart ? 
Simpson, I mean." 

" Still ! " said I, " and why shouldn t she be ? But 
compared with her friend she is as a rushlight to the 
evening star a glow-worm to Antares." 

" Ha ! ha ! ha ! why, Simpson, you have an astonish 
ing tact at making discoveries original ones, I mean." 
And here we separated, while one of the trio began 
316 



THE SPECTACLES 

humming a gay vaudeville, of which I caught only the 
lines : 

Ninon, Ninon, Ninon a has 
A has Ninon de L Enclos ! 

During this little scene, however, one thing had 
served greatly to console me, although it fed the passion 
by which I was consumed. As the carriage of Madame 
Lalande rolled by our group, I had observed that she 
recognised me ; and more than this, she had blessed me, 
by the most seraphic of all imaginable smiles, with no 
equivocal mark of the recognition. 

As for an introduction, I was obliged to abandon 
all hope of it until such time as Talbot should think 
proper to return from the country. In the meantime 
I perseveringly frequented every reputable place of 
public amusement ; and, at length, at the theatre, where 
I first saw her, I had the supreme bliss of meeting her, 
and of exchanging glances with her once again. This 
did not occur, however, until the lapse of a fortnight. 
Every day, in the interim, I had inquired for Talbot at 
his hotel, and every day had been thrown into a 
spasm of wrath by the everlasting " Not come home 
yet " of his footman. 

Upon the evening in question, therefore, I was in a 
condition little short of madness. Madame Lalande, I 
had been told, was a Parisian had lately arrived from 
Paris might she not suddenly return ? return before 
Talbot came back and might she not be thus lost to 
me for ever ? The thought was too terrible to bear. 
Since my future happiness was at issue, I resolved to act 
with a manly decision. In a word, upon the breaking up 
of the play, I traced the lady to her residence, noted 
the address, and the next morning sent her a full and 
elaborate letter, in which I poured out my whole heart. 

3 1 ? 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

I spoke boldly, freely in a word, I spoke with 
passion. I concealed nothing not even of my weak 
ness. I alluded to the romantic circumstances of our 
first meeting even to the glances which had passed 
between us. I went so far as to say that I felt assured 
of her love ; while I offered this assurance, and my own 
intensity of devotion, as two excuses for my otherwise 
unpardonable conduct. As a third, I spoke of my fear 
that she might quit the city before I could have the 
opportunity of a formal introduction. I concluded the 
most wildly enthusiastic epistle ever penned, with a 
frank declaration of my worldly circumstances of my 
affluence and with an offer of my heart and of my 
hand. 

In an agony of expectation I awaited the reply. 
After what seemed the lapse of a century it came. 

Yes, actually came. Romantic as all this may appear, 
I really received a letter from Madame Lalande the 
beautiful, the wealthy, the idolised Madame Lalande. 
Her eyes her magnificent eyes had not belied her 
noble heart. Like a true Frenchwoman, as she was, 
she had obeyed the frank dictates of her reason the 
generous impulses of her nature despising the con 
ventional pruderies of the world. She had not scorned 
my proposals. She had not sheltered herself in silence. 
She had not returned my letter unopened. She had 
even sent me, in reply, one penned by her own 
exquisite fingers. It ran thus : 

" Monsieur Simpson vill pardonne me for not compose de butefulle 
tong of his contre"e so veil as might. It is only de late dat I am arrive, 
and not yet ave de opportunity for to I e tudier. 

" Vid dis apologia for the maniere, I vill now say dat, helas ! 
Monsieur Simpson ave guess but de too true. Need I say de more ? 
Helas ! am I not ready speak de too moshe ? 

" EUGENIE LALANDE." 

3 i8 



THE SPECTACLES 

This noble-spirited note I kissed a million times, 
and committed, no doubt, on its account, a thousand 
other extravagances that have now escaped my memory. 
Still Talbot would not return. Alas ! could he have 
formed the even vaguest idea of the suffering his 
absence had occasioned his friend, would not his sym 
pathising nature have flown immediately to my relief ? 
Still, however, he came not. I wrote. He replied. 
He was detained by urgent business but would shortly 
return. He begged me not to be impatient to 
moderate my transports to read soothing books to 
drink nothing stronger than Hock and to bring the 
consolations of philosophy in my aid. The fool ! if he 
could not come himself, why, in the name of every 
thing rational, could he not have enclosed me a letter 
of presentation ? I wrote him again, entreating him 
to forward one forthwith. My letter was returned by 
that footman, with the following endorsement in pencil. 
The scoundrel had joined his master in the country : 

" Left S yesterday, for parts unknown did not say where or 

when be back so thought best to return letter, knowing your hand 
writing, and as how you is always, more or less, in a hurry. 

" Yours sincerely, STUBBS." 

After this, it is needless to say, that I devoted to the 
infernal deities both master and valet ; but there was 
little use in anger, and no consolation at all in com 
plaint. 

But I had yet a resource left, in my constitutional 
audacity. Hitherto it had served me well, and I now 
resolved to make it avail me to the end. Besides, after 
the correspondence which had passed between us, what 
act of mere informality could I commit, within bounds, 
that ought to be regarded as indecorous by Madame 
Lalande ? Since the affair of the letter, I had been in 

3*9 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

the habit of watching her house, aud thus discovered 
that, about twilight, it was her custom to promenade, 
attended only by a negro in livery, in a public square 
overlooked by her windows. Here, amid the luxuriant 
and shadowing groves, in the gray gloom of a sweet 
midsummer evening, I observed my opportunity and 
accosted her. 

The better to deceive the servant in attendance, I 
did this with the assured air of an old and familiar 
acquaintance, With a presence of mind truly Parisian, 
she took the cue at once, and to greet me, held out the 
most bewitchingly little hands. The valet at once 
fell into the rear, and now, with hearts full to over 
flowing, we discoursed long and unreservedly of our 
love. 

As Madame Lalande spoke English even less fluently 
than she wrote it, our conversation was necessarily in 
French. In this sweet tongue, so adapted to passion, 
I gave loose to the impetuous enthusiasm of my nature, 
and, with all the eloquence I could command, besought 
her to consent to an immediate marriage. 

At this impatience she smiled. She urged the old 
story of decorum that bug-bear which deters so many 
from bliss until the opportunity for bliss has for ever 
gone by. I had most imprudently made it known 
among my friends, she observed, that I desired her 
acquaintance thus that I did not possess it thus, 
again, there was no possibility of concealing the date 
of our first knowledge of each other. And then she 
adverted, with a blush, to the extreme recency of this 
date. To wed immediately would be improper 
would be indecorous would be outre. All this she 
said with a charming air of naivete which enraptured 
while it grieved and convinced me. She went even so 
320 



THE SPECTACLES 

far as to accuse me, laughingly, of rashness of im 
prudence. She bade me remember that I really even 
knew not who she was what were her prospects, her 
connections, her standing in society. She begged me, 
but with a sigh, to reconsider my proposal, and termed 
my love an infatuation a will o the wisp a fancy or 
fantasy of the moment, a baseless and unstable creation 
rather of the imagination than of the heart. These 
things she uttered as the shadows of the sweet twilight 
gathered darkly and more darkly around us and then, 
with a gentle pressure of her fairy-like hand, overthrew 
in a single sweet instant, all the argumentative fabric 
she had reared. 

I replied as best I could as only a true lover can. 
I spoke at length, and perseveringly of my devotion, of 
my passion of her exceeding beauty, and of my own 
enthusiastic admiration. In conclusion, I dwelt, with 
a convincing energy, upon the perils that encompass 
the course of love that course of true love that never 
did run smooth and thus deduced the manifest danger 
of rendering that course unnecessarily long. 

This latter argument seemed finally to soften the 
rigour of her determination. She relented ; but there 
was yet an obstacle, she said, which she felt assured I 
had not properly considered. This was a delicate point 
for a woman to urge, especially so ; in mentioning 
it, she saw that she must make a sacrifice of her feel 
ings ; still, for me, every sacrifice should be made. She 
alluded to the topic of age. Was I aware was I fully 
aware of this discrepancy between us ? That the age 
of the husband should surpass by a few years even by 
fifteen or twenty the age of the wife, was regarded by 
the world as admissible, and indeed, as even proper : but 
she had always entertained the belief that the years of 

x 321 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

the wife should never exceed in number those of the 
husband. A discrepancy of this unnatural kind gave 
rise, too frequently, alas ! to a life of unhappiness. Now 
she was aware that my own age did not exceed two and 
twenty ; and I, on the contrary, perhaps was not aware 
that the years of my Eugenie extended very considerably 
beyond that number. 

About all this there was a nobility of soul a 
dignity of candour which delighted which enchanted 
me which eternally riveted my chains. I could 
scarcely restrain the excessive transport which possessed 
me. 

"My sweetest Eugenie," I cried, "what is all this 
about which you are discoursing ? Your years surpass 
in some measure my own. But what then ? The cus 
toms of the world are so many conventional follies. To 
those who love as ourselves, in what respect differs a 
year from an hour ? I am twenty-two, you say ; 
granted : indeed, you may as well call me, at once, 
twenty-three. Now you yourself, my dearest Eugenie, 
can have numbered no more than can have numbered 
no more than no more than than than than " 

Here I paused for an instant, in the expectation 
that Madame Lalande would interrupt me by supplying 
her true age. But a Frenchwoman is seldom direct, 
and has always by way of answering to an embarrassing 
query, some little practical reply of her own. In the 
present instance, Eugenie, who for a few moments past 
had seemed to be searching for something in her bosom, 
at length let fall upon the grass a miniature, which I 
immediately picked up and presented to her. 

" Keep it ! " she said, with one of her most ravish 
ing smiles. " Keep it for my sake for the sake of her 
whom it too flatteringly represents. Besides, upon the 
322 



THE SPECTACLES 

back of the trinket you may discover, perhaps, the very 
information you seem to desire. It is now, to be sure, 
growing rather dark but you can examine it at your 
leisure in the morning. In the meantime you shall 
be my escort home to-night. My friends are about 
holding a little musical levee. I can promise you, too 
some good singing. We French are not nearly so 
punctilious as you Americans, and I shall have no 
difficulty in smuggling you in, in the character of an 
old acquaintance." 

With this, she took my arm, and I attended her 
home. The mansion was quite a fine one, and, I be 
lieve, furnished in good taste. Of this latter point, 
however, I am scarcely qualified to judge ; for it was 
just dark as we arrived ; and in American mansions of 
the better sort lights seldom, during the heat of sum 
mer, make their appearance at this, the most pleasant 
period of the day. In about an hour after my arrival, 
to be sure, a single shaded solar lamp was lit in the 
principal drawing-room ; and this apartment, I could 
thus see, was arranged with unusual good taste and even 
splendour ; but two other rooms of the suite, and in 
which the company chiefly assembled, remained, during 
the whole evening, in a very agreeable shadow. This 
is a well-conceived custom, giving the party at least a 
choice of light or shade, and one which our friends over 
the water could not do better than immediately adopt. 

The evening thus spent was unquestionably the most 
delicious of my life. Madame Lalande had not over 
rated the musical abilities of her friends ; and the 
singing I here heard I had never heard excelled in any 
private circle out of Vienna. The instrumental per 
formers were many and of superior talents. The 
vocalists were chiefly ladies, and no individual sang less 

3 2 3 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

than well. At length, upon a peremptory call for 
" Madame Lalande," she arose at once, without affecta 
tion or demur, from the chaise longue upon which she 
had sat by my side, and, accompanied by one or two 
gentlemen and her female friend of the opera, repaired 
to the piano in the main drawing-room. I would have 
escorted her myself, but felt that, under the circum 
stances of my introduction to the house, I had better 
remain unobserved where I was. I was thus deprived of 
the pleasure of seeing, although not of hearing her sing. 
The impression she produced upon the company 
seemed electrical but the effect upon myself was some 
thing even more. I know not how adequately to de 
scribe it. It arose in part, no doubt, from the sentiment 
of love with which I was imbued ; but chiefly from my 
conviction of the extreme sensibility of the singer. It 
is beyond the reach of art to endow either air or 
recitative with more impassioned expression than was 
hers. Her utterance of the romance in Otello the 
tone with which she gave the words " Sul mio sasso" in 
the Capuletti is ringing in my memory yet. Her 
lower tones were absolutely miraculous. Her voice 
embraced three complete octaves, extending from the 
contralto D to the D upper soprano, and, though suffi 
ciently powerful to have filled the San Carlos, executed 
with the minutest precision, every difficulty of vocal 
composition ascending and descending scales, cadences, 
or Jiorituri. In the finale of the Sonnambula, she 
brought about a most remarkable effect at the words : 

Ah ! non guinge uman pensiero 
Al contento ond io son plena. 

Here, in imitation of Malibran, she modified the 
original phrase of Bellini, so as to let her voice descend 

3 2 4 



THE SPECTACLES 

to the tenor G, when, by a rapid transition, she struck 
the G above the treble stave, springing over an interval 
of two octaves. 

Upon rising from the piano after these miracles of 
vocal execution, she resumed her seat by my side ; when 
I expressed to her, in terms of the deepest enthusiasm, 
my delight at her performance. Of my surprise I said 
nothing, and yet was I most unfeignedly surprised ; for 
a certain feebleness, or rather a certain tremulous inde 
cision of voice in ordinary conversation, had prepared 
me to anticipate that, in singing, she would not acquit 
herself with any remarkable ability. 

Our conversation was now long, earnest, uninter 
rupted, and totally unreserved. She made me relate 
many of the earlier passages of my life, and listened with 
breathless attention to every word of the narrative. I 
concealed nothing felt that I had a right to conceal 
nothing from her confiding affection. Encouraged 
by her candour upon the delicate point of her age, I 
entered, with perfect frankness, not only into a detail of 
my many minor vices, but made full confession of those 
moral and even of those physical infirmities, the dis 
closure of which, in demanding so much higher a 
degree of courage, is so much surer an evidence of love. 
I touched upon my college indiscretions upon my 
extravagances upon my carousals upon my debts 
upon my flirtations. I even went so far as to speak of 
a slightly hectic cough with which, at one time, I had 
been troubled of a chronic rheumatism of a twinge 
of hereditary gout and, in conclusion, of the disagree 
able and inconvenient, but hitherto carefully concealed, 
weakness of my eyes. 

" Upon this latter point," said Madame Lalande, 
laughingly, " you have been surely injudicious in coming 

3 2 S 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

to confession ; for, without the confession, I take it for 
granted that no one would have accused you of the 
crime. By-the-by," she continued, " have you any 
recollection " and here I fancied that a blush, even 
through the gloom of the apartment, became distinctly 
visible upon her cheek " have you any recollection, 
mon cher ami, of this little ocular assistant which now 
depends from my neck ? " 

As she spoke, she twirled in her fingers the identical 
double eye-glass, which had so overwhelmed me with 
confusion at the opera. 

" Full well alas ! do I remember it," I exclaimed, 
pressing passionately the delicate hand which offered 
the glasses for my inspection. They formed a complex 
and magnificent toy, richly chased and filigreed, and 
gleaming with jewels which, even in the deficient light, 
I could not help perceiving were of high value. 

" Eh bien ! mon ami" she resumed with a certain 
empressement of manner that rather surprised me " Eh 
bien ! mon ami, you have earnestly besought of me a 
favour which you have been pleased to denominate 
priceless. You have demanded of me my hand upon 
the morrow. Should I yield to your entreaties and, I 
may add, to the pleadings of my own bosom would I 
not be entitled to demand of you a very a very little 
boon in return ? " 

" Name it ! " I exclaimed with an energy that had 
nearly drawn upon us the observation of the company, 
and restrained by their presence alone from throwing 
myself impetuously at her feet. " Name it, my beloved, 
my Eugenie, my own ! name it ! but, alas ! it is 
already yielded ere named. * 

" You shall conquer, then, mon ami" said she, " for 
the sake of the Eugenie whom you love, this little weak- 
326 



THE SPECTACLES 

ness which you have at last confessed this weakness 
more moral than physical and which, let me assure 
you, is so unbecoming the nobility of your real nature 
so inconsistent with the candour of your usual 
character and which, if permitted further control, will 
assuredly involve you, sooner or later, in some very 
disagreeable scrape. You shall conquer, for my sake, 
this affectation which leads you, as you yourself 
acknowledge, to the tacit or implied denial of your 
infirmity of vision. For this infirmity you virtually 
deny in refusing to employ the customary means for its 
relief. You will understand me to say, then, that I 
wish you to wear spectacles : ah, hush ! you have 
already consented to wear them, for my sake. You shall 
accept the little toy which I now hold in my hand, and 
which, though admirable as an aid to vision, is really of 
no very immense value as a gem. You perceive that, 
by a trifling modification thus or thus it can be 
adapted to the eyes in the form of spectacles, or worn 
in the waistcoat pocket as an eye-glass. It is in the 
former mode, however, and habitually, that you have 
already consented to wear it for my sake." 

This request must I confess it ? confused me in 
no little degree. But the condition with which it 
was coupled rendered hesitation, of course, a matter 
altogether out of the question. 

" It is done ! " I cried, with all the enthusiasm that 
I could muster at the moment. " It is done it is most 
cheerfully agreed. I sacrifice every feeling for your 
sake. To-night I wear this dear eye-glass, as an eye 
glass, and upon my heart ; but with the earliest dawn 
of that morning which gives me the pleasure of calling 
you wife, I will place it upon my upon my nose and 
there wear it ever afterward, in the less romantic, and 

3 2 7 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

less fashionable, but certainly in the more serviceable 
form, which you desire." 

Our conversation now turned upon the details of 
our arrangements for the morrow. Talbot, I learned 
from my betrothed, had just arrived in town. I was to 
see him at once, and procure a carriage. The soiree 
would scarcely break up before two ; and by this hour 
the vehicle was to be at the door ; when, in the con 
fusion occasioned by the departure of the company, 
Madam L. could easily enter it unobserved. We 
were then to call at the house of a clergyman who 
would be in waiting ; there be married, drop Talbot, 
and proceed on a short tour to the East ; leaving the 
fashionable world at home to make whatever comments 
upon the matter it thought best. 

Having planned all this, I immediately took leave, 
and went in search of Talbot, but, on the way, I could 
not refrain from stepping into a hotel for the purpose 
of inspecting the miniature ; and this I did by the 
powerful aid of the glasses. The countenance was a 
surpassingly beautiful one ! Those large luminous eyes ! 
that proud, Grecian nose ! those dark luxuriant 
curls ! " Ah ! " said I, exultingly to myself, " this is 
indeed the speaking image of my beloved ! >! I turned 
the reverse, and discovered the words " Eugenie 
Lalande aged twenty-seven years and seven months." 

I found Talbot at home, and proceeded at once to 
acquaint him with my good fortune. He professed 
excessive astonishment, of course, but congratulated me 
most cordially, and proffered every assistance in his 
power. In a word, we carried out our arrangement to 
the letter ; and at two in the morning, just ten minutes 
after the ceremony, I found myself in a close carriage 
with Madame Lalande with Mrs. Simpson, I should 
328 



THE SPECTACLES 

say and driving at a great rate out of town, in a 
direction north-east by north, half north. 

It had been determined for us by Talbot, that, as we 
were to be up all night, we should make our first stop 

at C , a village about twenty miles from the city, 

and there get an early breakfast and some repose, before 
proceeding upon our route. At four precisely, there 
fore, the carnage drew up at the door of the principal 
inn. I handed my adored wife out, and ordered break 
fast forthwith. In the meantime we were shown into 
a small parlour, and sat down. 

It was now nearly if not altogether daylight ; and, 
as I gazed enraptured at the angel by my side, the 
singular idea came, all at once, into my head, that this 
was really the very first moment since my acquaintance 
with the celebrated loveliness of Madame Lalande, that 
I had enjoyed a near inspection of that loveliness by 
daylight at all. 

" And now, mon ami" said she, taking my hand, and 
so interrupting this train of reflection, " and now, mon 
c/jfr ami, since we are indissolubly one since I have 
yielded to your passionate entreaties, and performed my 
portion of our agreement I presume you have not 
forgotten that you also have a little favour to bestow 
a little promise which it is your intention to keep. 
Ah ! let me see ! Let me remember ! Yes ; full 
easily do I call to mind the precise words of the dear 
promise you made to Eugenie last night. Listen ! You 
spoke thus : c It is done ! it is most cheerfully agreed ! 
I sacrifice every feeling for your sake. To-night I wear 
this dear eye-glass as an eye-glass, and upon my heart ; 
but with the earliest dawn of that morning which gives 
me the privilege of calling you wife, I will place it 
upon my upon my nose and there wear it ever 

3 2 9 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

afterward, in the less romantic, and less fashionable, but 
certainly in the more serviceable form which you 
desire. These were the exact words, my beloved 
husband, were they not ? " 

" They were," I said ; " you have an excellent 
memory ; and assuredly, my beautiful Eugenie, there 
is no disposition on my part to evade the performance 
of the trivial promise they imply. See ! Behold ? 
They are becoming rather are they not ? " And 
here, having arranged the glasses in the ordinary form 
of spectacles, I applied them gingerly in their proper 
position ; while Madame Simpson, adjusting her cap, 
and folding her arms, sat bolt upright in her chair, in 
a somewhat stiff and prim, and indeed, in a somewhat 
undignified position. 

" Goodness gracious me ! " I exclaimed, almost at 
the very instant that the rim of the spectacles had 
settled upon my nose " My ! goodness gracious me ! 
why what can be the matter with these glasses ? " And 
taking them quickly off, I wiped them carefully with a 
silk handkerchief, and adjusted them again. 

But if, in the first instance, there had occurred some 
thing which occasioned me surprise, in the second, this 
surprise became elevated into astonishment ; and this 
astonishment was profound was extreme indeed I 
may say it was horrific. What, in the name of every 
thing hideous, did this mean ? Could I believe my 
eyes ? could I ? that was the question. Was that 
was that was that rouge ? And were those and were 
those were those wrinkles, upon the visage of Eugenie 
Lalande ? And oh ! Jupiter, and every one of the gods 
and goddesses, little and big ! what what what 
what had become of her teeth ? I dashed the spectacles 
violently to the ground, and, leaping to my feet, stood 

33 



THE SPECTACLES 

erect in the middle of the floor, confronting Mrs. 
Simpson, with my arms set akimbo, and grinning and 
foaming, but, at the same time, utterly speechless with 
terror and with rage. 

Now I have already said that Madame Eugenie 
Lalande that is to say, Simpson spoke the English 
language but very little better than she wrote it ; and 
for this reason she very properly never attempted to 
speak it upon ordinary occasions. But rage will carry 
a lady to any extreme ; and in the present case it carried 
Mrs. Simpson to the very extraordinary extreme of 
attempting to hold a conversation in a tongue that she 
did not altogether understand. 

" Veil, monsieur," said she, after surveying me, in 
great apparent astonishment, for some moments 
" Veil, monsieur ! and vat den ? vat de matter now ? 
It is de dance of de Saint Vitusse datyou ave ? If not 
like me, vat for vy buy de pig in de poke ? " 

" You wretch !" said I, catching my breath " you 
you you villainous old hag!" 

" Ag ? ole ? me not so ver ole, after all ! me not 
one single day more dan de eighty-doo." 

" Eighty-two ! >: I ejaculated, staggering to the 
wall " Eighty-two hundred thousand baboons ! The 
miniature said twenty-seven years and seven months !" 

" To be sure ! dat is so ! ver true ! but den de 
portraite has been take for dese fifty-five year. Ven I 
go marry my segonde usbande, Monsieur Lalande, 
at dat time I had de portrait take for my daughter by 
my first usbande, Monsieur Moissart ! " 

" Moissart ! " said I. 

" Yes, Moissart," said she, mimicking my pronun 
ciation, which, to speak the truth, was none of the best ; 
" and vat den ? Vat you know about de Moissart ? " 

33 1 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

" Nothing, you old fright I know nothing about 
him at all ; only I had an ancestor of that name, once 
upon a time." 

" Dat name ! and vat you ave for say to dat name ? 
Tis ver goof name ; and so is Voissart dat is ver goot 
name too. My daughter, Mademoiselle Moissart, she 
marry von Monsieur Voissart ; and de name is both ver 
respectaable name." 

" Moissart ? : I exclaimed, " and Voissart ! why, 
what is it you mean ? " 

" Vat I mean ? I mean Moissart and Voissart ; and 
for de matter of dat, I mean Croissart and Froissart, too, 
if I only tink proper to mean it. My daughter s 
daughter, Mademoiselle Voissart, she marry von Mon 
sieur Croissart, and den agin, my daughter s grande- 
daughter, Mademoiselle Croissart, she marry von 
Monsieur Froissart ; and I suppose you say dat dat 
is not von ver respectable name." 

" Froissart ! " said I, beginning to faint, " why 
surely you don t say Moissart, and Voissart, and Croissart, 
and Froissart ? " 

" Yes," she replied, leaning fully back in her chair, 
and stretching out her lower limbs at great length ; 
" yes, Moissart, and Voissart, andCroissart, and Froissart. 
But Monsieur Froissart, he vas von ver big vat you call 
fool he vas von ver great big donee like yourself for 
he lef la belle France for come to dis stupide Amerique 
and ven he get here he vent and ave von ver stupide, 
von ver, ver stupide sonn, so I hear, dough I not yet av 
ad de plaisir to meet vid him neither me nor my com 
panion, de Madame Stephanie Lalande. He is name 
de Napoleon Bonaparte Froissart, and I suppose you say 
dat dat^ too, is not von ver respectaable name." 

Either the length or the nature of this speech, had 
332 



THE SPECTACLES 

the effect of working up Mrs. Simpson into a very 
extraordinary passion indeed : and as she made an end 
of it, with great labour, she jumped up from her chair 
like somebody bewitched, dropping upon the floor an 
entire universe of bustle as she jumped. Once upon 
her feet, she gnashed her gums, brandished her arms, 
rolled up her sleeves, shook her fist in my face, and 
concluded the performance by tearing the cap from her 
head, and with it an immense wig of the most valuable 
and beautiful black hair, the whole of which she 
dashed upon the ground with a yell, and there trampled 
and danced a fandango upon it, in an absolute ecstasy 
and agony of rage. 

Meantime I sank aghast into the chair which she 
had vacated. " Moissart and Voissart ! I repeated 
thoughtfully, as she cut one of her pigeon-wings, " and 
Croissart and Froissart ! " as she completed another 
" Moissart and Voissart and Croissart and Napoleon 
Bonaparte Froissart ! why, you ineffable old serpent, 
that s me that s me d ye hear? that s me " here I 
screamed at the top of my voice " that s me-e-e ! I 
am Napoleon Bonaparte Froissart ! and if I haven t 
married my great-great-grandmother, I wish I may 
be everlastingly confounded ! " 

Madame Eugenie Lalande, quasi Simpson formerly 
Moissart was, in sober fact, my great-great-grand 
mother. In her youth she had been beautiful, and 
even at eighty-two, retained the majestic height, the 
sculptural contour of head, the fine eyes and the Grecian 
nose of her girlhood. By the aid of these, of pearl- 
powder, of rouge, of false hair, false teeth, and false 
tournure^ as well as of the most skilful modistes of Paris, 
she contrived to hold a respectable footing among the 
beauties un pen passees of the French metropolis. In 

333 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

this respect, indeed, she might have been regarded as 
little less than the equal of the celebrated Ninon De 
L Enclos. 

She was immensely wealthy, and being left, for the 
second time, a widow without children, she bethought 
herself of my existence in America, and for the pur 
poses of making me her heir, paid a visit to the 
United States, in company with a distant and exceed 
ingly lovely relative of her second husband s a Madame 
Stephanie Lalande. 

At the opera, my great-great-grandmother s atten 
tion was arrested by my notice; and, upon surveying 
me through her eye-glass, she was struck with a certain 
family resemblance to herself. Thus interested, and 
knowing that the heir she sought was actually in the 
city, she made inquiries of her party respecting me. 
The gentleman who attended her knew my person, 
and told her who I was. The information thus ob 
tained induced her to renew her scrutiny ; and this 
scrutiny it was which so emboldened me that I behaved 
in the absurd manner already detailed. She returned 
my bow, however, under the impression that, by some 
odd accident, I had discovered her identity. When, 
deceived by my weakness of vision, and the arts of the 
toilet, in respect to the age and charms of the strange 
lady, I demanded so enthusiastically of Talbot who she 
was, he concluded that I meant the younger beauty, as 
a matter of course, and so informed me, with perfect 
truth, that she was " the celebrated widow, Madame 
Lalande." 

In the street, next morning, my great-great-grand 
mother encountered Talbot, an old Parisian acquaint 
ance ; and the conversation, very naturally, turned upon 
myself. My deficiencies of vision were then explained; 

334 



THE SPECTACLES 

for these were notorious, although I was entirely 
ignorant of their notoriety ; and my good old relative 
discovered, much to her chagrin, that she had been 
deceived in supposing me aware of her identity, and 
that I had been merely making a fool of myself in 
making open love, in a theatre, to an old woman un 
known. By way of punishing me for this imprudence, 
she concocted with Talbot a plot. He purposely kept 
out of my way to avoid giving me the introduction. 
My street inquiries about " the lovely widow, Madame 
Lalande," were supposed to refer to the younger lady, 
of course ; and thus the conversation with the three 
gentlemen whom I encountered shortly after leaving 
Talbot s hotel will be easily explained, as also their 
allusion to Ninon De L Enclos. I had no opportunity 
of seeing Madame Lalande closely during daylight, 
and, at her musical soiree, my silly weakness in refusing 
the aid of glasses effectually prevented me from making 
a discovery of her age. When " Madame Lalande " 
was called upon to sing, the younger lady was intended ; 
and it was she who arose to obey the call ; my great- 
great-grandmother, to further the deception, arising at 
the same moment and accompanying her to the piano 
in the main drawing-room. Had I decided upon 
escorting her thither, it had been her design to suggest 
the propriety of my remaining where I was; but my 
own prudential views rendered this unnecessary. The 
songs which I so much admired, and which so con 
firmed my impression of the youth of my mistress, 
were executed by Madame Stephanie Lalande. The 
eye-glass was presented by way of adding a reproof to 
the hoax a sting to the epigram of the deception. 
Its presentation afforded an opportunity for the lecture 
upon affectation with which I was so especially edified. 

335 



TALES OF MYSTERY 

It is almost superfluous to add that the glasses of the 
instrument, as worn by the old lady, had been ex 
changed by her for a pair better adapted to my years. 
They suited me, in fact, to a T. 

The clergyman, who merely pretended to tie the 
fatal knot, was a boon companion of Talbot s, and no 
priest. He was an excellent " whip," however ; and, 
having doffed his cassock to put on a greatcoat, he 
drove the hack which conveyed the " happy couple " 
out of town. Talbot took a seat at his side. The two 
scoundrels were thus " in at the death," and through a 
half open window of the back parlour of the inn, 
amused themselves in grinning at the denouement of the 
drama. I believe I shall be forced to call them both 
out. 

Nevertheless, I am not the husband of my great- 
great-grandmother ; and this is a reflection which 
affords me infinite relief; but I am the husband of 
Madame Lalande of Madame Stephanie Lalande 
with whom my good old relative, besides making me 
her sole heir when she dies if ever she does has been 
at the trouble of concocting me a match. In conclu 
sion : I am done for ever with billets doux^ and am never 
to be met without SPECTACLES. 



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